Body camera footage reveals more about Wallace shooting

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw
Metro File

An officer told his partner to “shoot him” several seconds before the pair fired 14 shots at Walter Wallace Jr. last week in West Philadelphia.

Body-worn camera footage released Wednesday night shows that the two officers had only been on the scene for about a minute before the shooting, which occurred Oct. 26 on the 6100 block of Locust Street.

A woman can be heard screaming that Wallace is “mental” moments before police discharged their weapons.

After Wallace collapses in the middle of the street, another woman begins ripping open his jacket in an apparent attempt to locate the gunshot wounds. Her shirt says, “ All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”

Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man whose death sparked outrage and unrest last week, was wielding a knife, which officers ordered him to drop at least 20 times.

In the video, he walks slowly towards one of the officers after coming off his porch. As he crosses the street, his mother tries to grab him, and, on the other side of the street, another man attempts to get a hold on him.

Wallace eludes the man, speeds up a bit, coming from around a parked car, at which point the officers, 25-year-old Sean Matarazzo and 26-year-old Thomas Munz, start shooting.

“He’s f—ing chasing us,” one of the two says after the gunfire.

The video, which also includes 911 calls and police radio clips, was edited at the request of the Wallace family, authorities said.

It’s the first time the Philadelphia Police Department has made body camera footage public, and, after its release, peaceful demonstrations demanding justice for Wallace broke out Wednesday night in Center City, coinciding with “count every vote” rallies.

“If you look like someone else other than a Black man, you oftentimes will survive that incident,” said the Rev. Mark Tyler, a pastor who joined other Black faith leaders at a city news conference Wednesday.

There were no arrests connected with the protests and no reports of looting, according to the PPD.

Last week, after cellphone video taken by a witness went viral, 53 officers were injured in clashes over the ensuing 48 hours and there was widespread looting in certain sections of the city.

A protester stands on a vehicle as demonstrators clash with riot police during a rally after the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who was shot by police in Philadelphia. REUTERS/Yuki Iwamura

Wallace’s killing drew national attention, eliciting responses from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, and President Donald Trump’s press secretary.

On Thursday, an online petition circulated calling on city leaders to fire Matarazzo and Munz; resist providing additional funding for the PPD, including for the purchase of tasers; and to “ban” police from responding to mental health-related calls.

The document, sponsored by the Amistad Law Project, a group of advocates and attorneys that fights for criminal justice and jail reform, has garnered more than 1,750 signatures.

Mayor Jim Kenney said he has been in talks with City Council to potentially transfer funding to buy more tasers for officers.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the union representing PPD officers, put out a statement Wednesday night, accusing officials and others of vilifying the officers for “doing their job.”

The union had been calling on city leaders to release the video since last Tuesday.

“Mayor Kenney has called this ‘police violence,’ however the real violence was perpetrated by a knife-wielding man, who confronted our police officers,” FOP President John McNesby said.

Kenney, during a press briefing Wednesday evening, called the video “painful” and said the footage would inspire anger, rage and distress.

“The taking of a life is a violent act, whether that act is appropriate or not is what this whole investigation will determine,” he said. “I’m not necessarily making any allusions to criminality.”

Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and others asked the public for patience in allowing various investigations to run their course.

The PPD is conducting concurrent probes to determine whether the officers broke the law or violated any of the department’s policies, and the District Attorney’s Office has also opened its own investigation. Officials have not provided a timeline for wrapping up the case.

In the audio tape, a neighbor calls 911 just before 3:45 p.m. and asks them to “send the cops” to the apartment because people are fighting.

Less than 20 seconds later, Wallace’s sister, who is not in West Philadelphia, calls and also asks for officers to respond to Locust Street.

“My dad says that he’s about to faint, and my mom’s blood pressure is all the way up,” she said.

A third call, from an unknown man, informs a 911 operator that his mother needs help.

After a dispatcher relays the report to patrol officers, someone on police radio says: “Just have the officers use caution. This is an ongoing domestic issue going on up there.”

Officials said Wednesday that they will be rolling out and working to expand a number of initiatives to help PPD employees better understand what to do in the event of a mental health crisis.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, whose district includes part of West Philadelphia, had been calling for the release of the body camera video, and, in a statement, she said she wants “a swift and thorough investigation.”

“Walter Wallace Jr. was a Black man, and this incident demonstrates that Black lives are still not protected equally in our city,” Gauthier said Wednesday night. “Unless we address the racism that is at the root of tragedies like these, we’re bound to repeat history over and over.”

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