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Philadelphia police discover van loaded with explosives amid unrest over fatal shooting of Black man

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/29/2020 N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Anthony V. Coppola, USA TODAY
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PHILADELPHIA  — Philadelphia remains on high alert after police reportedly found explosives inside a van following multiple nights of protest over the shooting death of a Black man with a history of mental health problems.

Police recovered propane tanks, torches and possible dynamite sticks from the van Wednesday and it is unclear if anyone has been arrested in connection with the vehicle, WPVI reported. The Philadelphia Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

The city fell mostly silent Wednesday after officials instituted a citywide curfew following several nights of unrest over the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

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While scattered reports of looting were still popping up throughout the city Wednesday night, the protests and confrontations that marred Philadelphia since Monday had all but dissipated. Police showed a heavy presence in the neighborhood near where Wallace died Wednesday in anticipation of a third night of discord, but that never materialized. 

By 7:30 p.m., just 15 people had gathered for a "Justice for Walter Wallace Jr" protest in Center City. The group slowly disbanded and went its separate ways not long after. 

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference Wednesday she plans to release 911 tapes and police body camera footage of the shooting once the department shares it with Wallace's family.   

Mayor Jim Kenney said the Pennsylvania National Guard would also be deployed to help protect property and assist the police. The first troops were expected Friday and Saturday.

Wallace, a 27-year-old aspiring rapper and father of nine, was shot Monday as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police spokesperson Tanya Little said. Officers ordered Wallace to drop the knife, but he instead “advanced towards”  them. Both officers then fired “several times,” Little said.

From Wednesday: Philadelphia prepares for another night of protests over Walter Wallace killing after second night turns violent

Video of the shooting was taken by a bystander and shared on social media which sparked protests in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn borough of New York City and Portland.

Wednesday was a stark contrast from what unfolded the nights before during which more than 170 people have been arrested and more than 50 police officers injured in clashes with protesters and vandals in Philadelphia. Police said more than 1,000 people were looting businesses in the Port Richmond section of the city, breaking windows and stealing merchandise Tuesday night.

Police in riot gear face protesters marching through West Philadelphia on October 27, 2020, during a demonstration against the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Walter Wallace, a Black man, by police. © Gabriella Audi, AFP via Getty Images Police in riot gear face protesters marching through West Philadelphia on October 27, 2020, during a demonstration against the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Walter Wallace, a Black man, by police.

A lawyer representing the family told reporters Tuesday that Wallace had mental illness and had been taking lithium. Police officers responded twice to the Wallace residence Monday before returning a third time. Wallace's brother reportedly called 911 looking for an ambulance.

'Stop this violence': Philadelphia police report large crowd of looters as Wallace's father calls for peace

Outlaw said her department lacks a mental health unit or consistent way to coordinate police calls with specialists.

“We don’t have a behavioral health unit, which is sorely needed,” Outlaw said. “There’s clearly a disconnect on our end in terms of knowing what’s out there “ at the scene.

Both Kenney and Outlaw pledged to address the lack of coordinated mental health services.

“We have limited resources and we have a large number of people with problems,” Kenney said. “We need to do a better job.”

Police shootings amid mental health crisis: Police have shot people experiencing a mental health crisis. Who should you call instead?

Contributing: The Associated Press

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Philadelphia police discover van loaded with explosives amid unrest over fatal shooting of Black man

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