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Mourners say farewell to Walter Wallace Jr., killed in encounter with police

Melanie Burney
Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia – Mourners began lining up at a North Philadelphia church Saturday morning to pay respect to Walter Wallace Jr., who was shot and killed last month by police during a domestic call.

A steady line of mourners began forming shortly before 9 a.m. outside National Baptist Temple Church. A two-hour viewing was scheduled before the service at 11 a.m. A cousin, the Rev. Roosevelt Brant 3rd, pastor of Integrity Christian Center in Chester, was expected to preach the eulogy.

Ushers wearing latex gloves, masks and black T-shirts that read “We’re praying for you” directed mourners who were kept six feet apart for social distancing. Mourners were allowed inside the church, two at a time, to file past Wallace’s black casket. A choir belted out uplifting gospel songs.

Sheila Rhames rests her hands on a banner honoring Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

“He was just a genuinely caring person,” said fellow rapper Chad Telfer, 27. “He was like a brother to me.”

Wallace was killed Oct. 26 after police responded to his family’s Locust Street home in the Cobbs Creek section after a series of 911 calls made by a sister, brother, and neighbor who said the mentally ill man was assaulting his parents.

Wallace was holding a knife when police arrived, authorities said. He walked from the home toward two officers, who, with guns drawn, repeatedly told him to drop the knife, before firing 14 times as he continued to advance toward them.

The chaotic events surrounding the shooting were captured on bodycam footage, which was released earlier this week by the city. The 911 tape and police radio calls that preceded the shooting were also released.

The officers were identified by Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw as Thomas Munz Jr., 26, a three-year veteran of the force, and Sean Matarazzo, 25, on the force since 2018. Wallace’s mother witnessed the shooting and screamed, “You killed my son!”

The family’s attorney, Shaka Johnson, on Friday called for sweeping reforms in the Police Department and the city’s mental health services. He criticized the police department for failing to equip its officers with Tasers.

Family members line up outside National Temple Baptist Church for the funeral for Walter Wallace Jr., in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

Johnson has also called for the officers to be fired. A decision is pending on whether they will face any charges in the shooting.

“They didn’t have to kill him,” said Joseph Askew, 71, who worked with Wallace’s father and was among those who turned out Saturday to mourn his son. “They could have shot him in the leg, anything. It’s crazy.”