Philadelphia city officials on Wednesday released “traumatic” bodycam footage worn by the officers who fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr. last week, urging the public to remain calm as the city comes under national scrutiny for the shooting.
The Philadelphia Police Department also released multiple 911 calls made by neighbors and Wallace’s own family, pleading for help as the 27-year-old experienced a violent psychological episode.
The bodycam videos begin as officers Sean Matarazzo and Thomas Munz stand outside of Wallace’s parents’ home — a brick row house with a small porch. It is unclear if the officers knocked on the front door, but as they wait on the sidewalk, about 15 feet away, someone inside the house can be heard saying, “Put the knife down,” three distinct times.
But the 27-year-old Black man steps out of the screen door and onto the porch holding a large knife in his right hand.
Both Matarazzo and Munz immediately shout at Wallace to “drop the weapon.” Between them, they repeat some variation of the command about 11 times.
Wallace ignores the orders and begins to move off the steps and toward the officers with the knife at his side. He then turns away from Matarazzo and Munz, who both have their weapons drawn. Wallace’s mother follows her son into the street, grabbing at him and standing between him and the officers. One officer — it’s unclear which of the two — calls for her to move away from Wallace.
Another man also runs after Wallace as he reaches the opposite sidewalk. Both officers appear to be standing in the middle of the narrow, residential street.
Then Wallace turns and makes his way back toward the middle of the road.
Throughout the chaos, another woman can be heard repeatedly yelling that Wallace is “mental.” Neither officer appears to acknowledge her cries.
In one of the videos, a male voice — it’s unclear who — can be heard saying, “Get him,” and “Shoot him.”
Seconds later, each officer fires at least seven rounds at Wallace and he drops to the ground facedown.
His mother runs toward her son wailing and screaming, “You killed my son! You killed my son!”
Police have not said how many times Wallace was struck.
As other officers arrive on the scene, one of the officers says, “He was f****** chasing us.”
Wallace never appears to get closer than 10 to 15 feet from Matarazzo or Munz.
During an afternoon press conference before the videos were released, District Attorney Larry Krasner said that only part of the footage had been released “at the request of the Wallace family.” Krasner tried to head off any potential unrest that may follow the release of the footage.
“We understand that the materials released today will be very painful. It will elicit anger, rage, distress, evoke more questions, and rightfully so,” he said.
Krasner acknowledged the “traumatic” impact of the videos and added, “I ask all of us to work together to ensure this moment does not lead to further division in our communities.”
It is the first time the department has publicly released bodycam footage for a police shooting.
“We know this moment is incredibly painful, given so many failures over generations to protect all of Philadelphia’s residents, especially those who are Black or brown, as we continue making measurable steps toward building equity, inclusive and public safety in our city, releasing this footage is a step, but also an indication of this failure,” Krasner said.
The shooting is under investigation by Krasner’s office as well as the Philadelphia Police Department’s internal affairs unit. The outcome of the investigations will determine whether charges will be filed against the officers.
Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said on Wednesday that 25-year-old Matarazzo joined the force in 2018, while 26-year-old Munz has been on the force since 2017.
Neither of them was carrying a Taser, Outlaw said, noting the department had previously asked for funding to equip more officers with those devices.
She pledged to put reforms in place by late next year, including more de-escalation training and improving coordination with mental health specialists.