The Philadelphia Story

On the third call to do something about Walter Wallace, two cops killed him as he approached them with the knife he refused to drop. Protests, riots and looting followed, as did attacks on the cops deployed to stop them, including one officer run down by a pickup truck. The usual round of rationalizations followed, from Wolf Blitzer wondering why cops can’t just shoot to wound to contentions that, had Wallace been white, cops wouldn’t have killed him because reasons.

This isn’t a new scenario, and we’ve heard the arguments proffered to justify the protests, riots and looting.

The problem, on what would once have been considered the eve of a presidential election, but with mail-in and early voting no longer counts, is that the shooting was not merely lawful under the Reasonably Scared Cop Rule, but sadly sensible. That Wallace was bipolar, his family says, doesn’t change the tip of his knife entering a human body.

Sure, at this point in time, it’s expected that government officials, media and reformers indulge in fantasy solutions like shooting Wallace in the leg or bringing in a mental health person to face down a knife-wielding guy and either talk him off the ledge, something his mother couldn’t do, or be the dead body for the cause.

But what cannot happen is the perpetuation of either the fantasy fixes or violence, destruction and looting. And on the eve, kinda, of trial, while stores were looted and bricks were thrown at cops, the question was what would Joe Biden have to say about it.*

Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr., and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost. We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death. It makes the shock and grief and violence of yesterday’s shooting that much more painful, especially for a community that has already endured so much trauma. Walter Wallace’s life, like too many others’, was a Black life that mattered — to his mother, to his family, to his community, to all of us.

Wallace was 27 years old. An Uber Eats driver and a rapper, he was expecting his ninth child. His life mattered like every life mattered. but not enough for anyone in his family to help him when he wasn’t wielding a knife.

At the same time, no amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence. Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice. It hurts our fellow citizens. Looting is not a protest, it is a crime. It draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short.

The reaction to Biden’s statement from the social justice left was predictable, that he doesn’t get it and doesn’t care about black lives, that he’s worthless to the cause.

We’re all well aware of the pain and outrage in the black community over police racism, even if this was hardly the shooting that screams murder. That no longer carries any resonance; police can’t kill a black person without protests, riots and looting to follow. This is a needle that can’t be threaded anymore.

And beyond condemnation of this reaction, and condemnation by the radical left for condemnation of rioting, looting, attacking police and destroying businesses, what did Biden have to offer?

As a nation, we are strong enough to both meet the challenges of real police reform, including implementing a national use of force standard, and to maintain peace and security in our communities. That must be our American mission. That is how we will deliver real justice.

We are all praying for the entire Wallace family, and for our nation, that we may move toward healing.

Thoughts and prayers? Empty rhetoric? The closest he came to an actual thought is a “national use of force standard,” which is neither within his power as president nor a solution to the problem that no cop can kill a black person without this reaction, regardless of the propriety of the use of force.

As the left is outraged by Biden’s response, certain now that he’s no better than Trump lite and must be destroyed as soon as he rids them of Darth Cheeto, if not sooner, we are staring at a scenario that can’t be sustained. We cannot be left with the choice between riots and looting or black people untouchable by cops, left to do as they please wrapped in the litany of excuses about “systemic racism.” This is not a survivable future.

Yet again, it’s critical to note that there are serious problems of persistent racism that need to be addressed, and serious problems of systemic failure in the legal system demanding solutions. But we’re walking further away from viable solutions as we indulge in lies about the causes and reject the reality on the street.

If Wallace, mentally ill though he may have been, had come at you with a knife, would you die rather than have the police shoot him? We can proffer all the fantasy excuses available, but at the moment this guy, regardless of his race, regardless of the pain he suffered as a black man in America, regardless of his mental illness, put his knife into your body, what would any person do about it?

Thoughts and prayers might be enough of an answer for Biden to win the election, even if the left abandons him for being barely less racist than Trump, but it solves nothing. The problem isn’t that there aren’t ways to address racism, to address the failure of the legal and mental health systems, but that they aren’t the solutions either side is willing to do the hard work of thinking about and implementing.

Instead, they come up with excuses for guys with arms filled with Air Jordans looted from Footlocker while Biden offers his tepid palliative words that no one wants to hear, no one cares about and no one believes. Ironically, the cops who killed Wallace didn’t have Tasers on their belts. The police budget was cut and they could no longer afford them, which wasn’t a big deal because less-lethal weapons are now more evil because they’re used with greater frequency against protesters. So Wallace was killed and riots followed, as they do every time.

This can’t go on, and Biden can’t end it. He’s not Trump, but what is he?

*No one wonders what Trump would say, as it would be no more cogent than anything he’s ever had to say, and mindlessly lethal.


27 thoughts on “The Philadelphia Story

  1. Miles

    I see what you did there, “or black people untouchable by cops.” And to take it a step further, Karen, untouchable by anyone other than another black person. No one can do or say anything without being the racist and destroyed by the mob, and the woke fail to see why this might not be a viable future for society.

    This isn’t sustainable anymore, no matter how passionately the woke decry racism, and it doesn’t fix either of the problems you keep pounding on. Even if Trump is off the table, Biden’s can’t alienate the woke either, even if he was willing to actually do something to end the riots and looting. We’re doomed.

    1. SHG Post author

      There has been a rational leadership void in this country for too long, and because nature hates voids, it’s been filled with dangerous nutjobs on the left and right. I don’t know whether we’re doomed or not, but I don’t know that Biden will be any more successful in ending his side’s crazies than Trump, who courted his.

  2. Alex Sarmiento

    Eric Hoffer said that mass movements get much more extreme when they begin to sense weakness, and their goal is plausibly in sight. Hence, it is more likely and getting increasingly obvious that the radical woke left will intensify in terms of real power and craziness even more under Biden, since he represents a less troubled path to their goal. Embrace.

    1. SHG Post author

      Nice to know that Hoffer agrees with me, but it’s a shame you’re unaware that the point has already been made here, numerous times, as if you’ve discovered something.

      1. Alex Sarmiento

        Eh, one thing is to acknowledge that Biden “can’t end it” because he says useless stuff that nobody cares about, another is to understand or acknowledge why he will make matters worse. So no, you didn’t make that point anywhere.


  3. John Barleycorn

    “but not enough for anyone in his family to help him when he wasn’t wielding a knife.”

    Wow, you must know a lot about Walter’s family. Friends of yours?

    Anyway, help him with what exactly, his nine children, the Uber Eats thing, or being a “rapper”? I am confused…

    I bet you meant “help” him with his mental illness right? Or did you mean help him with “life” in general? Good idea but as you pointed out, tasers are expensive! Seems that not even the cops can “afford” them anymore.

    Correlation fantasies are hard on the eyes but poverty truly is a bitch. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Who could have possibly predicted all this mayhem eh?!

    P.S. Water cannons mounted on armored personal carriers to keep the bicycles off the sidewalks always did sound a bit more orderly than tasers anyway right? Just think of all the savings when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way cleaning, and as a bonus all the “scared” cops get a few inches of steel to settle their rattled nerves…

      1. John Barleycorn

        I been hearing that a lot lately ever since I blew threw my lifetime cap of 190 days of impatient mental health care under Medicare, but then again I was hearing a lot of that “perpetual” language on the inside too…

        Fucking catch-22 dilemma I tell ya!!!

        RIP Walter, and I hope what I have been told about everyone in Heaven getting a new tricycle is true.

        BTW, If you have ever wondered, esteemed one, the orderlies from impatient care and the shelter security folks on the outside have both been telling me that you have been starting to become just a little bit too fatalistic in your rhetoric over the last few years and that you need to step up your game with some sort of 312 point plan, instead of bitching and whining all the time.

        But don’t you worry… confusion loves company, perpetually is coming for us all, and although the orderlies and security folks are nice and all, none of them really like lawyers to begin with because lawyers scare the shit out of them, so they are just a wee little a bit judgmental when I share your material with them.

        But don’t tell anyone because that “judgmental thing” is against their code. And we all know that the lawyers, of all people, should really start to take advantage of all the glorious mental health apparatus that is available beyond just the weekly visit to the pharmacy counter. And if not, it won’t be too long now before the lawyers destroy the entire justice system for the rest of us.

        Which would be very, very, bad because all those extra lawyers, all at once in impatient care, would probably force Uncle to wack at least a hundred days off the Medicare lifetime impatient care cap, which could cause some really crazy shit to go down in the inpatient care cafeteria on a regular basis every time somebody drops a lawyer joke.

        There would damn near be a riot everyday and then the inevitable will happen. That being, the homeless people speculating about why all them lawyers don’t just man up, find a corner and stop biting the hand that feeds them everyday.

        Not to mention the adverse effects to regular crazy people going about their daily business being lumped in with the fucking lawyers. Nothing good could come of that, nothing good at all…

    1. JMK

      “ Good idea but as you pointed out, tasers are expensive! Seems that not even the cops can “afford” them anymore”

      Tasers are “less than lethal” force. Unless you want to die, you do not use them in response to lethal force for the same reason that you do not bring a knife to a gunfight.

  4. Jay

    Don’t you worry Greenfield, Kamala Harris, pride of the left and former prosecutor, to the rescue. She’ll broker a peace between the sides that will last, just as soon as Biden takes his night night pills in the oval office.

  5. B. McLeod

    Of course Biden will fail to solve the perceived problem once he assumes ownership. So will all of his critics, because their knee-jerk reactions aren’t viable solutions. If they want mental health crises to not end in death, there will have to be restrictions on the liberty of the mentally ill that prevent their crises from reaching a frenzied Norman Bates expression. Once the mental health crisis reaches that stage, it’s going to end in somebody’s death, no matter how many children are made sad.

  6. Curtis

    “Wallace was 27 years old. An Uber Eats driver and a rapper, he was expecting his ninth child. ”
    I think this is an important point. Even living, he could not matter much to all of his black children lives. For men to succeed, they need the proper family structure with a strong father and, for three quarters of black men, that is not the case. Black families matter.

    1. SHG Post author

      While it’s one thing to believe “bourgeois values” like strong families are a virtue, I’m reluctant to apply it to any particular person without knowing more about their life.

  7. Rengit

    I like the guy responding to Robby Soave’s thread who offers a different but substantially similar solution to Wolf Blitzer’s: why not beat the knife out of his hand with a billy club?

    Because video footage of the police delivering a beatdown with clubs to a black male for resisting arrest has never sparked urban riots before. Headlines would read, “ALMOST 30 YEARS LATER, RODNEY-KING STYLE BEATINGS STILL ALL TOO COMMON”.

    1. SHG Post author

      People go through the litany of dumb alternatives with regularity. And your point, that even if they had used a club to beat the knife out of his hand, it would still have come off as brutality is likely true.

  8. Steve King

    The riots do not surprise me. I believe these things have been preplanned and organized, just waiting for an incident to “justify one”. I hope that someone is doing traffic analysis on the cell phones in the area. There is no excuse for the rioting and looting. These are organized criminals doing this.

    Despite the movies and videos, it is incredibly difficult and risky to go hand to hand against someone who is disturbed and possessing a great deal of hysterical strength at the time. The only thing that would stop the assault would be striking something that would either incapacitate or kill. I have read that most police, even in the major metro departments, do not have the training needed to do something like get the guy into a restraining hold and it would be incredibly risky with knife involved.

    A police officer friend of mine told me some years ago what his departments policy was on situations were someone had a knife:
    1). At least 20 ft. between you and him.
    2). Something between you and him.
    3). Weapon out and ready.
    The guy with the knife does not have a hell of a lot of work to do. He does not even have to have training in knife fighting. He just has to stab you and can do so many times in a few seconds. And these things happen fast.

    I don’t know what the solutions are to the questions you have raised. I know the officers want to go home at night. I am sorry the guy is dead and will never have a chance to turn himself around.

    Unfortunately, “set phasers to stun” happens only in science fiction.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re referring to what’s known as the Tueller Drill, which is something we’re all well aware of. The “rule” is that a knife-wielding suspect can cover 21 feet in the period of time before an officer can draw, aim and fire his weapon. But it’s hardly the “rule” cops are told it is. When a cop has weapon drawn, aimed and ready to fire, the 21 foot “zone of danger” are no longer relevant to the decision whether to fire.

      Please remember this is a law blog, not reddit.

      1. Steve King

        Thanks for the critique. I am obviously not a lawyer, so I sometimes conflate issues. My belief is that laws applying to physical actions should at least have some foundation in the facts on the ground.

        As for “set phasers on stun”, I hope that that becomes a reality some day.

        1. SHG Post author

          I liked the “set phasers on stun” line. (As for the book, I deleted it and do not take kindly to people promoting books in my comments unless they pay me for the advertisement.)

          1. Steve King

            Sorry for being slow to reply. My point is that we are approaching the situations described in the books where technology is used to directly influence the human brain and subsequent behavior.

            For example, if you were mentally ill and had the voluntary option to have a chip in the brain that would at least reduce if not “cure” your illness, would you do it? Should you do it?

            Suppose you are convicted of a crime and had the option of being “rightminded” or jail? Should this be done?

            Technology seems to be approaching that point. Maybe not in my life time or yours, but I believe that will occur. I would not know whether to be scared or glad.

            Thanks for the conversation.

            Thanks for the conversation

  9. F. Lee Billy

    What kind of a knife? A kitchen knife? Long or short blade? Sharp or dull? A pocket folding knife? A gravity knife? A “switchblade” knife? A hunting knife? A skinning knife? A machete knife? A letter opener knife? A plastic knife? A carbon or stainless steel knife made in Japan?

    Knives Matter!?!

    Come on man, get serious. Not all knifes are the same. Some are lethal; others are ceremonial or decorative. (We like bone-handled Bowie or skinning knives, in their original leather or rawhide cases.)

    In West Philly, we’re surprised there are any “lethal” knives left. We thought they had already been confiscated by the scared-for-their-lives city cops. Do not forget: The 👮s have all the weapons and ammo they need. The poor residents are entitled to squirt guns on hot summer dayz. For the record and for those unfamiliar with the neighborhood, West Philly has yet to be “gentrified” by graduates of Penn Scool of Architecture.

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