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Phoenix City Council approves $3 million settlement with family of Ryan Whitaker

Ryan Whitaker
Posted at 2:54 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 20:56:45-05

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously Wednesday 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.

Whitaker was shot in the back and killed by a Phoenix police officer while answering the door in his Ahwatukee apartment in May.

Police responded after a neighbor called in alleging there was yelling and a possible domestic violence incident.

Whitaker’s family has maintained from the beginning that he and his wife were not arguing but playing a video game before bed when police knocked on their door.

"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.

Whitaker answered the door while holding a gun at his side, which his family said was because of recent issues with someone banging on their door at night.

Body camera video shows Whitaker immediately move the gun 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 that moment, roughly three seconds after Whitaker answers the door, an officer fires his gun three times, and Whitaker falls forward into the walkway. Video shows Whitaker was shot twice in the back.

"Ryan Whitaker did everything correctly. He was an upstanding young man," said Councilman Sal DiCiccio, at the City Council meeting. "No amount of money can bring him back."

According to the Phoenix Police Department, the officer fired his weapon because he believed the other officer was "in imminent danger.”

"This has been a tragedy all the way around. It is so sad," said DiCiccio.

"That family, after suffering the loss of their loved one, literally had to hit the streets," said Garcia.

Baeza, and other relatives, have been calling for accountability and action for months.

"Now I’m on to the county attorney‘s office to find out when someone is going to be held accountable. Back to the Phoenix Police Chief on when are these officers going to be fired," said Baeza.

The officers involved are still on the job and getting paid, although the one who pulled the trigger is not currently on the streets.

Currently, the City of Phoenix is staring down 12 open lawsuits, seeking $71,150,000, related to Phoenix PD shootings in the city's fiscal 2018-19 year.

"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.

Garcia is the most vocal councilmember in his support for the Office of Accountability and Transparency, which was temporarily shut down in November.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has still not made a decision on whether or not to charge the officers criminally.