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Family of Ryan Whitaker calls for officer in shooting to be fired, arrested

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 22:20:54-04

PHOENIX — The family of Ryan Whitaker, a man shot and killed by a Phoenix police officer in May, is calling for the officer who pulled the trigger to be fired and arrested.

"Where's the justice?" said Ryan's brother, Steven Whitaker at a press conference Thursday. "Phoenix police wonder why there's lack of trust right now in the Phoenix PD. There's no accountability."

In an edited video released Wednesday, produced by the Phoenix Police Department, a spokesman explained that officers were responding to the residence near Chandler Boulevard and Desert Hills Parkway for a domestic violence call placed by a neighbor.

Body-worn camera released Wednesday shows two officers approaching the apartment, knocking on the door and announcing that they are police.

As 40-year-old Whitaker opens the door, he holds a handgun in his right hand. He immediately moves it behind his back after seeing the officers. Officers scream “hands” and Whitaker backs up, lifts his left hand in the air, squats down and puts the hand with the gun toward the floor.

At this point in the video, an officer fires his gun three times at Whitaker, who falls forward into the walkway.

Police posted the footage of the deadly shooting on their social media channels Wednesday afternoon. You can watch the video here. *WARNING: Video is graphic, viewer discretion advised.*

Steven Whitaker said his brother was doing everything officers commanded of him before he was shot.

"As they say 'hands, hands, hands,' he is going to the ground," Steven Whitaker said. "He is being submissive. The weapon is going to the ground. He is not a threat."

Phoenix police confirmed the officer who pulled the trigger, Jeff Cooke, is now on a non-enforcement assignment.

"Chief Williams, you want to build trust in this community, yet he is still on your force," said Whitaker's sister, Katie Baeza. "If you watch that video and you're ok with it, you need to step down."

ABC15 requested an interview with Chief Williams Thursday and were told she was unavailable.

The President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, Michael 'Britt' London, issued the following statement:

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association is aware of the officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of Ryan Whitaker. While the internal and criminal investigations are being conducted and reviewed, we urge the public to refrain from judgment until all the facts are known to ensure due process for those involved in this situation.

While body camera video does show an officer say "Phoenix police" after knocking on the door, Steven Whitaker said there's no way his brother knew officers were outside when he answered, noting loud music in the apartment. Family also claims there wasn’t a fight happening in the apartment, but that they were playing video games.

"I know there's people out there that are saying, 'hey man, your brother came to the door with a gun, he got what he deserved, he got what he had coming to him,'" Whitaker said. "I say this to those people, my brother had no idea police were on the other side of that door."

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office confirmed to ABC15 the case was submitted to their office for review on July 6.