PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – One day after the Phoenix Police Department released body-cam videos of an officer shooting and killing an Ahwatukee man while responding to a domestic dispute report, the man's family is calling for that officer to be fired and arrested.
Officer Jeff Cooke shot and killed 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker the night of May 21. The body-cam videos edited by Phoenix PD and released on Wednesday show Cooke and his partner approaching the apartment, knocking and announcing themselves, and then positioning themselves on either side of the door. Whitaker had a gun in his hand when he opened the door and stepped outside. He appeared to be starting to kneel and putting his hands up when Cooke fired.
Whitaker's father was emotional, fighting back tears, when he took the podium to start the family's news conference Thursday and asked the media to save their questions until everybody had made their statements. Whitaker's brother and sister, surrounded by family, then addressed the gathering.
"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%."
Steven said there was loud music in the apartment when the officers' knocked on the door and announced themselves.
"Look at my brother's face [in the video]", he said. "You can see it in his face, the fear, [when he saw the officers]. ... He immediately takes a defensive position -- very submissive -- and wanting to give up and put his weapon down." Whitaker's grandfather demonstrated the position Whitaker was in when Cooke fired. "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 [because] you are not fit to be a cop in this state -- at all."
"They shot my brother in cold blood and murdered him – murdered him," Steven said.
He challenged Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams to fire Cooke, who has been with Phoenix PD for about three years, and arrest him for murder.
"We want justice for Ryan," he said. "Be accountable for your actions. Hold people accountable."
"This proved everything I've been saying," Whitaker's sister, Katie Baeza, said. "In a fraction of a second, Jeff Cooke was a judge, jury and executioner of my brother."
"If you watch that video and are OK with it, you need to step down," she continued, directing her comment at Williams. She also said the man who called 911 escalated the situation unnecessarily and should be held accountable for that.
"The entire encounter between the officers and Whitaker lasted just seconds," Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department said in an edited video the Department posted to YouTube Wednesday.
"The shooting of Ryan Whitaker should have never occurred," the Whitakers' lawyer, Matt Cunningham, said Thursday. "So, now the light shines upon Chief Williams."
Cunningham said Whitaker never saw Cooke and that the shooting "rises to the level of an ambush." He also noted that the family still has not received the unedited video body-cam video, nearly two months after the shooting.
"As a community, we should be outraged," he said.
Poder in Action, which has been outspoken in its demands for change at the Phoenix Police Department, joined the Whitaker family in its calls both for answers and for "justice for Ryan."
Phoenix police are investigating after a domestic violence call led to an officer-involved shooting at an Ahwatukee apartment complex late Thursday night.