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Walter Wallace’s family speak out as dozens of officers injured in protests

A policewoman run over by a truck is among 30 officers who have been injured in Philadelphia after street protests broke out following the shooting death of a black man armed with a knife.

Police say demonstrators threw rocks, bricks and other objects at dozens of officers, and set at least one police vehicle on fire during the 300-strong rally triggered by the death of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr.

His father, Walter Wallace Senior, told the Inquirer that his son was also a father, was on medication and lived with mental health issues.

“Why didn’t they use a taser?” he asked.

Video taken by a bystander and shared widely on social media showed Wallace approaching two police officers who drew their guns after warning him to put down the knife.

The video shows the officers backing up, then cuts briefly from view as gunfire erupts and Mr Wallace is shown slumping to the pavement.

His father said Mr Wallace’s mother tried to defuse the situation before their son appeared to have been shot 10 times by police.

“He has mental issues… Why you have to gun him down?”

Another video has since surfaced online, showing a similar incident involving a white man wielding a knife.

The man who is said to have mental health issues can be heard shouting “who do the f**k do you think you are?” and threatening “you’re gonna die” at one officer while another approaches the scene.

As the man edged closer to the officers and waved his knife at them, neither pulled their guns on him.

Since the incident in Minneapolis, demonstrators have turned out nationwide to demand racial equality and an end to police brutality.

A 56-year-old female officer was rushed to hospital with a broken leg after being hit by a truck, and another 29 officers sustained minor injuries, according to a preliminary report prepared by police.

On Wednesday morning, the Philadelphia Police Department announced it has launched an investigation into the killing of Mr Wallace.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she recognised the video of the incident “raises many questions”, adding that the Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit was probing the incident.

“Residents have my assurance that those questions will be fully addressed by the investigation,” Ms Outlaw said.

Mayor Jim Kenny said she heard “the anger of the community” after Mr Wallace’s death.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she has developed a bill to ensure mental health first responders are deployed instead of police when 911 is called to manage mental health crises.

“Walter Wallace Jr. should be alive today. If mental health professionals were deployed instead of police, he would be,” she wrote on Twitter.

A GoFundMe page which has been set up to help support Mr Wallace’s wife has so far brought in nearly US$80,000.

The violence in Philadelphia is the latest in months of anti-racism protests across the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes.

Activist groups reiterated a demand to defund the police, with the American Civil Liberties Union saying state violence could not be the answer to society’s problems.

“It is time to divest in police and invest in community programs, including the kind of mental health services that allow intervention that may have prevented Mr Wallace’s killing,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU.

-with AAP

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