Two people are facing charges after police in Philadelphia found a van full of illegal explosives amid multiple nights of unrest in the city over the police shooting of a Black man with mental health problems.
Brian Larue and Eric Murray each received several misdemeanor charges and three felony charges, including possession of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy, and risking a catastrophe. The pair was transporting quarter or half sticks of dynamite, a handheld propane tank torch, a taser and various tools including electric drills, bolt cutters and machetes, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“These individuals who have been charged today tried to use a message of justice to provide cover for their own gain,” Shapiro said in a statement Thursday. “This is an incredibly challenging time for communities in Philadelphia, across Southeast Pennsylvania, and around the country. We will not allow criminals to hijack, and take advantage of, lawful protests as an opportunity to sow chaos.”
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Police were responding to a commercial burglary alarm when officers spotted a “convoy” of 10-15 vehicles that fled when authorities arrived. Officers followed the group and eventually pulled over the van driven by Larue which initially had its license plate covered by tape.
Bomb technicians identified the materials in the van, which officials say are commonly used to dismantle and steal money from ATMs, and officers arrested Larue and Murray. Shapiro said there have been at least 30 ATM bombings in the city in the last four days.
The arrests come amid multiple days of unrest over the police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr.
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.
Video of the shooting was taken by a bystander and shared on social media which sparked protests in Philadelphia, the Brooklyn borough of New York City and Portland.
Body camera footage from the incident and 911 audio files will be released by the end of next week, according to a joint statement from the offices of Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Wallace’s family reviewed the body camera footage and is not calling for the officers who fatally shot him to be charged with murder, family attorney Shaka Johnson told reporters on Thursday.
“Here’s why, they were improperly trained and did not have the proper equipment by which to effectuate their job,” Johnson said at a press conference.
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