PHOENIX - The family of a man shot and killed by Phoenix Police will receive a $3 million payout, as members of the Phoenix City Council voted to approve the settlement during a meeting on Dec. 2.
According to FOX 10's Justin Lum, the settlement over the police shooting that killed 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker was approved on a 9-0 vote, seven months after the shooting that killed a father of two children.
This settlement marks another large settlement of its kind made by the city: In August, $475,000 was paid out to members of Dravon Ames' family, after Ames and his family were held at gunpoint by police officers due to an alleged shoplifting incident.
During the meeting, City Council member Carlos Garcia spoke out about the deadly shooting.
"We not only failed this family in our policies, but also, I feel like we failed them in being able to walk them through this process," said Councilmember Garcia.
Councilmember Sal DiCiccio, who is usually vocal on his support of law enforcement, sided with Whitaker, saying he handled the situation correctly, and the settlement amount is low.
Councilmember DiCiccio also called out Phoenix Police for allegedly not getting Whitaker medical help fast enough
"We don't know if he would have lived or not, but the fact of the matter is it showed a strong callousness from those individuals that were there to not immediately call for help," said Councilmember DiCiccio.
911 calls claim domestic violence incident
Screenshot of Phoenix Police body camera video showing the moments before 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker was shot and killed by police officers at an apartment in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix in May 2020.
FOX 10 first reported on the police shooting that killed Whitaker in May 2020. According to Phoenix Police officials at the time, officers responded to a call at an apartment near Desert Foothills Parkway and Chandler Boulevard in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix on the night of May 21.
In 911 calls made to Phoenix Police on that night, portions of which were released by police in July 2020 via audio recordings, the voice of a man told 911 dispatchers of a domestic dispute incident.
"I can tell they're just at each other's throats down there," said the man on the 911 call.
In the second 911 call, the caller told 911 dispatchers the incident could be physical.
"Does it sound like it's escalated to any physical, or still just sounds verbal?" asked the 911 dispatcher.
"Oh...it could be physical, I could say, yeah, if that makes anybody hurry up on -- get over here any faster," the man on the second 911 call replied. "I hear slamming of doors, and -- I don't know, somebody could be gettin' thrown into a door for all I know, but I hear all kinds of banging."
Body camera footage captures moments leading up to shooting
(Warning: Due to graphic content, viewer discretion is advised)
Body camera video released by Phoenix Police alongside the 911 calls in July 2020 shows two Phoenix Police officers walking to the apartment where the incident happened. Police officials say Whitaker came out the door holding a gun, and stepped toward one of the officers. Investigators say the officer who fired his weapon feared for the life of the other officer.
"Whitaker did not fire his weapon, which was recovered in the doorway," said Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson, in the critical incident briefing video.
Following the shooting, Whitaker's girlfriend was heard screaming and stepping out of the apartment with her hands in the air.
"Why did you guys shoot him?" the girlfriend was heard yelling to police officers at the scene.
"He's pulled a gun on us, ma'am," one of the officers responded.
"Because it's dark and someone has knocked on the door," the girlfriend was heard saying, in the video.
Later on, the girlfriend said she and Whitaker were playing a video game.
"We were playing Crash Bandicoot, so there may have been some screaming from PlayStation, but it's no -- it wasn't domestic violence or anything," the girlfriend told police, in the bodycam video.
The encounter, according to Sgt. Tommy Thompson with Phoenix Police, lasted just seconds. The two officers involved in the shooting have since been identified as 33-year-old Jeff Cooke and 53-year-old John Ferragamo.
According to Phoenix Police officials, Ferragamo returned to patrol, while Cooke is on a non-enforcement assignment. At this point, no charges have been filed against the officers involved.
Protests organized over deadly shooting
Family members of Ryan Whitaker protesting on Oct. 5
In the aftermath of Whitaker's shooting death, members of Whitaker's family have marched through the streets of Downtown many times to demand justice for Whitaker.
During a protest organized in July, days before Phoenix Police released body camera video and 911 audio recordings connected with the shooting, the Whitaker family said they have received little information on what happened.
"We get very generic. No information about the case. We're just being told it's under investigation," said Whitaker's sister, Katie Baeza. "Days after they shot and killed my brother, we had nothing, not even a medical examiner report. We have nothing."
After police released the body camera video and 911 audio recordings, members of the Whitaker family held a news conference to discuss the footage. During the news conference, family members say they want both officers fired, and the officer who fired his weapon to be charged with murder.
“The Phoenix PD murdered my brother," said Whitaker's brother, Steven Whitaker. "They murdered my brother."
"In a matter of seconds, Jeff Cooke became the judge, jury, and executioner of my brother," said Baeza.
"Somethings got to change," said Whitaker's father, Alan Whitaker.
On Oct. 5, a protest was once again held in honor of Whitaker, with family members, as well as a few hundred demonstrators standing outside the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, demanding that charges be filed against the officer who shot and killed Whitaker.
"It's been 137 days since they shot and killed my brother and it was all on video," said Steven.
Family members react to settlement
For members of Whitaker's family, the payout was not at the top of their list.
"There's no amount of money that will bring my brother back. There's no amount of money that will erase the trauma from my entire family," said Baeza.
Baeza was not involved in the civil suit, and for her, the settlement won't end the fight for her brother.
"I promised my nephew the day that this happened that I would never give up, and I looked in his face and said I will never give up and I just can't, so I won't," said Baeza. "Fired, arrested. That's justice for me."
"There's no amount of money that's gonna make us feel better. There's no amount of money that's gonna bring my son back," said Alan. "What it does mean to me is more of an admission that there was wrongdoing."
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