Phoenix, AZ — Ryan Whitaker, 40, and father of two, had committed no crime, had harmed no one and was merely answering his door when Phoenix police officer Jeff Cooke dumped three rounds into him — killing him in cold blood. The shooting took place in May of 2020, and we have just learned the officers involved will face no accountability whatsoever. As a result, the taxpayers of Phoenix shelled out a record amount of money in the form of a lawsuit.
"You never get used to it... that's for sure," Steven Whitaker, Ryan's brother told Arizona's Family on Friday. "As much as people say time heals all wounds, I'm waiting for that to happen."
According to AZ Family, the decision not to charge the officer who shot his brother is a disappointment, he says. "The lack of accountability is a joke, in my opinion. It's a joke," Steven said.
"You could be doing everything right and still lose your life," Steven said. "And someone's not going to be held accountable because they have a badge, and they say there are in fear of their life."
"We've been screaming justice for Ryan since day one... but how? How do you do that?" Steven asked out of frustration.
The county attorney noted that their "experts" reviewed the footage and that is how they came to their decision not to charge the officer.
“I wanted to inform the community of my decision as I know many in the community and, certainly Mr. Whitaker’s family and Officer Cooke and his family, have anxiously waited for it,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said in a statement, noting that her office would not pursue charges against Cooke. “I apologize that I was not able to announce this decision earlier.”
"When reviewing body worn camera evidence it is always important to realize that while the evidence is extremely useful in determining what happened, due to the placement of the camera on the officer, how the camera works, and how recorded data is compressed, these systems cannot provide us with the actual experience of the officer living the event," Adel said in a statement explaining how she came to her decision. "I note all of this because I want to be clear that this case was closely analyzed and studied."
"Officer Cooke reasonably perceived and believed was occurring in the moment he made the decision to fire his weapon."
When watching the video below, however, one can easily dismiss her claims as apologist propaganda used to protect a killer cop, especially considering the fact that the cop right next to him never felt the need to fire.
In December, the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to approve a $3 million settlement with the family of Ryan Whitaker.
"There’s no amount of money that will bring my brother back or ease that pain. It’s just really hard," said Katie Baeza, Whitaker's older sister.
The incident started over a noise complaint from Whitaker's upstairs neighbor and ended with the murder of an innocent father. A family for the attorney described the call to police about the noise as "exaggerated" which put Whitaker and his girl friend Brandee Nees' lives in danger. He also said the police knew this.
"The Phoenix Police Department knew from the night of the shooting that this was a false and exaggerated 911 call," Matthew Cunnigham, the family's lawyer said.
The nosy neighbor from upstairs — without any evidence — called police claiming they heard a loud argument that may be getting physical.
The caller even said on the 911 recording that they claimed it was "physical" just to get the cops out there faster.
"It could be physical," the caller told a 911 dispatcher. "I could say yeah if that makes anybody hurry on up. Get anybody here faster."
But there was no domestic dispute at all. Whitaker was playing video games with his girlfriend and the two were just excited about it.
That was all the caller said, nothing else. In fact, it was so vague that officer Cooke and his partner officer John Ferragamo joked about how ridiculous it was as they walked to Whitaker's front door.
"Did you like all that helpful info we got from our complainant?" Ferragamo is heard telling Cooke as they walk to Whitaker's apartment, according to the footage.
"'I'm just gonna say yes to all the questions to get the officers here faster,'" Ferragamo says, mocking the caller.
As the video shows, the officers knock at the door, say 'police', and then step out of view of the peephole, not letting the people inside see who is actually there. Literally any criminal in the world could do the same thing.
Because strangers had harassed Whitaker at his apartment a few days earlier, he grabbed his legally owned firearm and answered the door. Three seconds later, he'd be shot in the back, dying on his front porch.
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"Hands," the officer says before opening fire. Whitaker, according to the video appeared to be entirely compliant, yet Cooke opened fire immediately anyway.
"Holy sh-t!" Ferragamo is heard saying after his partner killed the innocent father.
Nees, who was right behind Whitaker and could've died too, then exits from the apartment, visibly distraught.
"Why did you guys shoot him?" Nees yelled.
Cooke responds, "He just pulled a gun on us, ma'am."
But the video shows he "pulled" no gun, was kneeling down, and trying to put the gun on the ground when he was executed.
"Because it's dark and someone just knocked on the door," she yelled at Cooke, explaining to her boyfriend's killer why it was logical for Whitaker to have a gun.
Ferragamo then says, "It's okay."
But, Nees yells, "It's not okay."
At this point, Whitaker is still dying on the ground in front of his home and neither officer is attempting to save his life.
Nees asks the officers why they are there in the first place and the officers told them they received a call about the yelling. Nees then proceeds to tell the officers Whitaker answered with the gun because a few days earlier, someone suspiciously knocked on his door and fled before he could see them through the peephole.
Sadly, it appears that this was the same thing that happened this time, only it was the cops hiding out of the peephole's view.
As the conversation continues, the officers realize no crime had taken place and the "yelling" reported by the nosy upstairs neighbor was excitement over a video game the couple was playing.
"Literally we were making salsa and playing Crash Bandicoot, so there may have been some screaming," she told the officer, according to the video. "It wasn't domestic violence or anything."
"He was at home playing video games and he did nothing wrong. On the contrary, he assumed the position that anybody would, and he still lost his life," said Councilmember Carlos Garcia during the settlement approval last month.
Slow-motion video edited by the attorney shows that Whitaker had put the gun down. What's more, we can see from the video that he was putting his hand up and trying to put the gun down — clearly not threatening anyone with a gun. What's more, it is entirely legal to answer your door with a gun.
Yet somehow, this attorney's office decided Cooke reasonably feared for his life.
“They put a narrative out there designed to protect and defend an officer that overreacted,” he said.
Both cops are still gainfully employed with the Phoenix police department and, according to ABC 15, the City of Phoenix is currently staring down 12 open lawsuits, seeking $71,150,000, related to Phoenix PD shootings in the city's fiscal 2018-19 year.
That is a massive problem.
"I just wish we had a process to not just throw money at this, but actually change policy. Actually hold the police officers accountable," said Garcia.