The family of a man killed in May by Phoenix police is demanding action in the death of Ryan Whitaker, who answered his door holding a gun and was shot to death moments later.
“The true facts of Ryan’s death will be revealed once the unedited, unaltered body camera footage is released by the City of Phoenix,” Matt Cunningham, the family’s attorney, said Wednesday, according to KPNX-TV in Phoenix.
Phoenix police have released bodycam footage of the May 21 incident. The footage shows graphic violence and should be viewed with caution.
The footage shows police coming to Whitaker’s door in the Phoenix village of Ahwatukee in response to a noise complaint. Conversation between the officers – John Ferragamo and Jeff Cooke — makes it apparent that officers viewed the call as a routine complaint.
The video shows Ferragamo knocking on the door of Whitaker’s apartment and identifying himself as a police officer while holding a handgun at his side.
Unknown to police at the time, Whitaker had experienced a knock on his door by a stranger earlier on the week of the police response, which was why he carried his 9mm handgun with him to answer the door, according to the Arizona Republic.
The video, which shows Ferragamo’s view of the incident, makes it clear the two officers were surprised by the gun.
“Hands! Hands” Ferragamo yelled.
The footage makes the next seconds unclear, but it appears that Whitaker has his left hand extended toward Cooke and was getting on his knees when Cooke fired into Whitaker’s back.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic violence that some viewers will find disturbing.
The shots killed Whitaker, 40.
Whitaker’s girlfriend, Brandee Nees, then emerges form the apartment. Police order her to get on her knees.
“Why did you guys kill him?” Nees yelled.
“He just pulled a gun on us, ma’am,” Cooke said.
“Because it’s dark and someone just knocked on the door,” Nees replied. She said the two were playing video games when police arrived.
“In a fraction of a second, Jeff Cooke was a judge, jury and executioner of my brother,” his sister, Katie Baeza, said.
“My brother had no idea police were on the other side of that door – none whatsoever,” Whitaker’s brother Steven said. “He was pro law enforcement – 100 percent.”
Steven Whitaker said there was loud music in the apartment when police arrived.
“Look at my brother’s face,” he said. “You can see it in his face, the fear. … He immediately takes a defensive position — very submissive — and wanting to give up and put his weapon down.”
“He’s not a threat. Not a threat at all,” Steven continued. “How is he a threat? If he’s a threat to you as a police officer, you need to turn in your weapon and your badge and walk away; you are not fit to be a cop in this state — at all.”
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