Posted on Fri, Dec. 23, 2005
Cop shot, NBA star's cousin dead
By SIMONE WEICHSELBAUM
He was a 22-year-old former college basketball player who seemed to have a promising future, but last night Tyree Wallace was shot dead by police in a bloody gunbattle on the West Oak Lane street where he lived.
Police and Mayor Street said last night that Wallace was selling drugs to an undercover officer when the officer's sergeant saw the Arcadia University senior pull out a gun, touching off a battle on Uber Street near 66th Avenue at about 6:45 p.m.
They said the sergeant, Mike Mitchell, a 17-year veteran of the force, had been shot in the groin and was in stable condition last night at Albert Einstein Medical Center.
Wallace was pronounced dead at Einstein.
Last night, about 10 young people gathered near the scene and complained loudly that the dead young man was not a drug dealer. Many wept.
Wallace's uncle, Carl H. Paul, said Wallace was a first cousin of Rasheed Wallace, the Detroit Pistons star from Simon Gratz High.
"All he did was go to school and play basketball," said a childhood friend of the victim's. "He wasn't a drug dealer."
"There's going to be some hell to pay," another youth yelled out.
Besides Wallace, police arrested an unidentified 20-year-old man who cops say came out of a house on the 6600 block of Uber, opened fire on them and went back inside.
No one was hit and the cops dashed into the house and dragged him out.
Police cordoned off the street where the shooting occurred and wouldn't let residents back in their homes last night.
Meanwhile, friends and family said Mitchell Wallace was a senior at Arcadia and a graduate of Roman Catholic High School.
Paul, 47, said he and family members were not allowed to see Wallace's body at Einstein because police said "his body is a crime scene."
"My nephew doesn't sell drugs," he said. "We're very upset. We're not happy that we can't see our family member."
But Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, Mayor Street and other police brass held a press conference outside Einstein last night to lay out their version of what happened.
Johnson said the wounded Mitchell was actually a highway patrol officer who had volunteered recently to work in narcotics.
The commissioner said Mitchell's father was a highway patrol officer and his uncle, Robert Mitchell, is a retired deputy police commissioner.
Johnson said an undercover officer had made a buy from Wallace, then identified himself as a cop and began to search him.
Mitchell and other officers were at the scene. Mitchell saw Wallace pull a gun and he jumped out of his unmarked vehicle and ran toward him, Johnson said.
He said the suspect fired at the sergeant, wounding him.
Johnson said Inspector Joseph Sullivan, of the Northwest Police Division, had asked for help because of an increase in drug dealing in his area.
"These officers go where the problems are," he said. He described Mitchell as a "very aggressive" officer.
Johnson said that Wallace had a record of one arrest and that the 20-year-old unidentified man who fired at officers had a record of 14 priors.
Another police official said Uber Street, where the shooting occurred, is a "bad drug block."
He said there was no doubt that Wallace had been selling drugs, despite what his friends were saying.
Street said, "This was just another example of Philadelphia police officers doing their job."
He said the incident was an example of "the level of violence and disregard for life" in the city.
"Our resolve is to do everything we can to support the department and the men and women in it."
But there were also charges of racism among residents gathered at the scene, since the officer is white and Wallace was black.
Paul said his nephew had ambitions to be a music producer.