Walter Wallace Jr. Should Still be Here

Walter Wallace Jr.

One year ago, Philadelphia cops shot and killed 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. on video (I don’t recommend ever watching or sharing videos of police killing people) in front of his mother and neighbors. The cops were reportedly responding to a call for help Walter’s family made because he was suffering from a mental health crisis. However, they called for an ambulance, not police response, as what Walter needed was immediate medical attention. The cops knew he was suffering from a mental illness episode before they arrived at the family home, so they had no reason to believe he was dangerous or threatening (and even if he was, there’s no justification for shooting him). When the cops approached Walter as he held the knife in his hand, two of them shot him seven times each, striking and killing him instantly. Before the murder, the cops had been to Walter’s house three times that same day because of his mental health crisis. They knew him. And Walter’s mother Cathy Wallace said during one of their visits, “they stood there and laughed at us.” At the time of his murder last October, Walter was the second person Philadelphia PD killed that year and the 10th person they shot. It’s no surprise that the city’s police department is wholly violent and maniacal as they’re the same ones who terrorized and bombed the Black MOVE liberation group in 1972. And while it’s important that this police department, like all of them nationwide, is defunded and the cops who shot and killed Walter be fired, we must be working toward abolition only so the violence of policing ceases to exist. How many more Walters and Breonnas and Georges do we have to watch die before everyone realizes that the existence of policing is homicidal? Cops don’t do anything but steal (research civil asset forfeiture and prepare to be mad), kill, and destroy (for those of you Christian folk out there). Locking up one or two individual cops will not change the entirety of what policing is. I wrote in a post about police violence, “There are no good cops, and there is no reason to support or defend the ones who currently wear the uniform, carry the murder weapons, and brag about their violence. And while defunding the police is a good first step, we are fighting for a world without policing, not a world where police reforms lead to more Black deaths and disappearances.” Today, almost one year after Walter’s death, the city of Philadelphia reached a settlement with his family for a large amount of money with a “series of reforms” to the police department. One of the promises is that all Philly cops will be equipped with tasers, which is an awful addition as tasers can be just as lethal as guns. The idea that justice for Walter Wallace Jr. is giving cops even more weapons of death to use on Philly community members isn’t shocking, but it is an indictment on how much our society values cops despite their every move proving we should feel otherwise. The goal should be to abolish the policing that killed Walter, not provide existing cops with other dangerous and violent alternatives to guns. If we truly want justice for Walter Wallace Jr. and every Black person murdered by police before and after him, we have to build toward a world without cops. If you want to read more about abolition and how and where to start, here are two of my favorite resources—an article by Mariame Kaba and a collection of resources from my friend Micah Herskind.