Armed man answers the door but lowers weapon and raises hand as he was shot dead in the back
National File – August 9, 2020
Officers with the Phoenix Police Department shot and killed a man when responding to a noise complaint about couple playing a video game, as the man answered the door with a pistol in one hand.
Ryan Whitaker, 40, had been playing video games with his girlfriend, Brandee Nees, into the night when he went to answer the door with a gun in his hand. Whitaker immediately began lowering his weapon and raised a hand in the air before he was shot in the back three times from point blank range.
Police shot Whitaker within seconds, failing to allow the Ahwatukee homeowner to respond, while he appeared to be disarming himself.
The fatal shooting took place on the night of May 22 after a dispatch call complained about the noise level. The unnamed caller suggested that there may have been fighting in order to hasten the police response time, according to AZ Central.
“I gotta get to work tomorrow and I’m getting no sleep,” the neighbor said.
“It could be physical,” he added. “I could say yeah if that makes anybody hurry on up. Get anybody here faster.”
Following the trigger happy shooting, Whitaker’s family attorney Matthew Cunningham said: “The Phoenix Police Department knew from the night of the shooting that this was a false and exaggerated 911 call.”
When police arrive at the scene no loud noises or fighting can be heard.
Both officers Jeff Cooke and John Ferragamo stood either side of the door, making it impossible for Whitaker to ascertain the identities of the persons knocking at his door in the night.
Directly after the shooting, a disconsolate Nees enquired: “Why did you guys shoot him?” To which Cooke, who shot Whitaker three times in the back, responded: “He just pulled a gun on us, ma’am.”
Nees responded: “Because it’s dark and someone just knocked on the door.”
Whitaker can be heard groaning loudly and hauntingly drawing his last breaths in the background.
Officer Ferragamo asked Nees if the couple had been fighting that night, she explained: “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.”
Whitaker had attended his daughter’s high school graduation earlier that day. Previous incidents where strangers had knocked on his door during the night had put him on high alert, prompting him to come to the door with a gun–something that is legal in Phoenix.
This particular shooting was one of Phoenix’s five fatal police shootings this year out of a total of eleven, so far.
Amid an investigation into the footage, prosecutors are determining whether to bring charges to Officer Cooke.