Before police released the identity of the man shot and killed Wednesday night during a robbery at a Glendale dollar store, the neighbors knew it was Wally.
All of the other employees had come out, but the manager's truck sat unmoved in the dark parking lot.
Wallace Knapton, 49, had managed the Family Dollar, 1145 S. Glendale Drive (1350 West) since May 2005. Knapton was a familiar face, a man who was respected by his neighbors and local leaders.
"He fit into our community and recognized what we were trying to do," said Jay Ingleby, the vice chairman of the Glendale Community Council. "He was a heck of a guy."
Two men walked into the dollar store around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, carrying guns and demanding cash, said Salt Lake police detective Jeff Bedard. At some point, a shot was fired and Knapton was killed.
Officers were searching for two possibly Polynesian men. One man was described as between 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds. The second man was described as 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. The two men were seen leaving the store in a smaller four-door, gold-colored vehicle with a "Ski Utah" license plate. Witnesses were able to give a partial number on the plate with the first two numbers possibly "29" and the last two letters as possibly "TD."
After the shooting, neighbors recalled Knapton's willingness to serve his community. The store had hosted a Night Out Against Crime event a few years prior, and when the neighborhood needed a place for its "Santa's Workshop," Knapton offered up the store.
A spokesman for Family Dollar said people at the corporate headquarters were heartened by the fact that Knapton was well-liked in the community and involved in the neighborhood.
"Obviously, we're very saddened at our corporate office for the loss of our store manager this way," spokesman Josh Braverman said. "We're doing everything we can to help the police in their investigation and hopefully they'll catch the people behind this.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family," Braverman said. "He's a member of our family as well, and we're very saddened by this."
A neighbor, Steve Pollock, said he didn't know Knapton very well, but he appeared to be a good neighbor, was quiet-spoken and always kept his yard nice.
The shooting was the neighborhood's second robbery-turned-homicide in less than a year.
Faviola Hernandez, who owned a beauty salon at 1331 W. California Ave. (1330 South), was shot in the chest and killed during a robbery on Aug. 15. The prime suspect in that killing remains on the lam.
For a community still reeling from that tragedy, Wednesday's slaying was another staggering blow.
Ingleby and Glendale Community Council Chairman Randy Sorensen criticized what they perceived to be an inadequate police presence in the neighborhood and called for more patrol officers in the area. The dollar store, they said, had been robbed several times over the past year.
Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, in a prepared statement Thursday, offered his condolences for Knapton's death and addressed concerns about crime on Salt Lake's west side.
"I am saddened by the tragic loss of life in our community last night," the mayor said. "Unfortunately, this could happen in any neighborhood in any part of our city or our state."
Becker said he hoped residents would find a "small degree of comfort" in knowing the city's Pioneer Precinct assigned 16 new officers this week to patrol neighborhoods west of State Street.
"I know that law enforcement alone cannot prevent this type of tragedy," Becker said. "We must stand together as a community to combat those who would take away the safety and security of our neighborhoods."Police released video surveillance footage of the robbery Thursday in hopes of tracking leads. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Tips For Cash hotline at 801-799-INFO.
Contributing: Geoffrey Fattah