Ryan Whitaker spent the last moments of his life playing video games with his girlfriend when Phoenix police came knocking on his door in response to a complaint from his upstairs neighbor, accusing him of domestic violence.
The cops panicked when the 40-year-old came to the door legally holding a gun by his right side, shooting him within five seconds even though bodycam footage shows the father of two was trying to surrender after realizing they were cops.
It was an infuriating video showing the cops never gave Whitaker a chance, made even more infuriating by the fact the neighbor who called police exaggerated the complaint in order to get them to respond quicker.
Last week, the Phoenix City Council approved a $3 million settlement to Whitaker’s family but both cops remain on the force, according to Fox 10.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office says it continues to “investigate” the incident to determine if any charges will be filed against the cop who fired the shots but large settlements usually means no charges will be filed.
In other words, it is nothing but tax-funded hush money, allowing the cops to continue operating without any real discipline. And it does not appear as if the man who called police whose name has not been released will face any legal scrutiny either.
In fact, Jeff Cooke, the 33-year-old cop who shot Whitaker in the back, was praised by his superiors following the shooting, according to the Arizona Republic.
According to internal Phoenix police files, Cooke had been praised by supervisors for his work ethic, positive attitude and taking on police duties that other officers didn’t.
His sergeant also commented on Cooke’s demeanor after the shooting, saying in Cooke’s performance review: “Your personal preparation and ability to control your emotions under pressure was definitely necessary during this critical time. Your calm cool demeanor kept other officers calm on route to assist you.”
According to the police report, Cooke told detectives that he shot Whitaker because he feared for his life.
Ferragamo later told another officer at the scene that he would have shot, too, but didn’t because Cooke did, according to the video footage and the police report.
However, Cooke’s “calm cool demeanor” was not evident in the seconds prior to the shooting which would have spared Whitaker’s life. And neither Cooke nor the other officer, 53-year-old John Ferragamo, made much of an effort to save his life after he was shot.
The incident took place on May 21, 2020 following two calls to 911 from the upstairs neighbor about the couple downstairs.
“I have a domestic dispute going on and I can tell they’re at each other’s throats down there,” the neighbor told the 911 dispatcher in his first call.
Thirty minutes later when cops had not arrived, the neighbor called again, suggesting the verbal argument had turned physical.
“It could be physical, I could say yeah if that makes anybody hurry up and get over here any faster,” the neighbor said, prompting the dispatcher to upgrade the call to an emergency.
But no sounds could be heard from the apartment when the cops arrived eight minutes later, knocking on the door and announcing themselves as “Phoenix police” before positioning themselves on either side of the door, making it impossible for Whitaker to view them through the peephole.
It does not appear as if Whitaker heard or understood that police were at his door because he opened it with the gun by his side, then quickly lowered his body as if to place the gun down while raising his left arm as if surrendering. He was shot around 10:52 p.m.
“Why did you guys shoot him?” Whitaker’s girlfriend, Brandee Nees, yelled as she stepped into the doorway as he lay dying on the ground.
“He just pulled a gun on us, ma’am,” Cooke said.
“Because it’s dark and someone just knocked on the door,” Nees responded.
When the other cop asked if they had been fighting, she told him they were only playing video games.
“Literally we were making salsa and playing Crash Bandicoot so there may have been some screaming from PlayStation but it wasn’t domestic violence or anything,” she said.
Nees told the cops that Whitaker had grabbed his gun after hearing a knock on the door because a few nights earlier, somebody had knocked on the door but when Whitaker looked through the peephole, nobody was there. She also told them about another incident when a woman who used to live in the complex knocked on the door asking for help after she had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend, the Arizona Republic reported.
The video above includes the shooting from both cameras, including portions in slow motion as well as statements from Whitaker’s girlfriend that they were not fighting. The 911 call that claimed they were fighting is also included.