The man, identified by family members as Walter Wallace, Jr., can allegedly be seen in a video of the incident walking towards officers from a distance, who warn him to drop the knife multiple times and fire around a dozen shots as he continues towards them.
Police said they were on the scene, in West Philadelphia’s Cobb Creek neighborhood, responding to a domestic incident and saw Mr Wallace “in some sort of altercation,” wielding the knife.
“I’m yelling, ‘put down the gun, put down the gun,’ and everyone is saying, ‘don’t shoot him, he’s gonna put it down, we know him,’” Maurice Holloway told the paper. Mr Holloway also said Mr Wallace’s mother tried to shield her son and pled with police not to shoot.
Mr Wallace’s father told the Inquirer his son had mental health issues.
Neighbors and community members quickly assembled at the scene to voice their anger, with some saying the police used unnecessary force and could have used a Taser or some other non-lethal means to subdue Mr Wallace.
Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner said personnel from his office were on the scene investigating what happened. He added he planned a full investigation and asked Philadelphians to respect each other’s right to peacefully demonstrate and express their rights.
Demonstrators are reportedly gathering at West Philadelphia’s Malcom X Park for a vigil, and protests are expected to continue during the night.
“A community has UNDOUBTEDLY been shaken,” tweeted the Black and Brown Coalition of Philadelphia, a grassroots group. “These next few days are going to be hard but we are stronger together.”