Amid the nationwide uproar over police brutality and the lack of accountability for law enforcement officers who abuse their authority, another shooting has made its way into the conversation. The May shooting of Ryan Whitaker in Ahwatukee, Arizona, ignited outrage in the community, especially after the bodycam footage emerged a few weeks ago.
Phoenix Police Officers John Ferragamo and Jeff Cooke responded to a noise complaint regarding Whitaker’s apartment on May 21. One of his neighbors had called 911 twice, claiming that he heard a domestic dispute. On the second call, the neighbor seemed to be untruthfully telling the 911 operator that the incident was turning violent to make certain that officers would be sent to the scene.
Shortly after arriving at Whitaker’s apartment, they knocked on his door and positioned themselves so that the resident could not see them through the peephole. The resident answered the door holding a handgun in his right hand. The footage shows the officers yelling and instructing Whitaker to drop his gun. The resident appears to comply, kneeling to place his weapon on the ground when Officer Cooke shoots him three times in the back, killing the 40-year-old.
The killing was the latest in a series of police shootings that have occurred in the Phoenix area. The incident sparked widespread anger in the city with accusations of officers being too trigger happy in their interactions with civilians.
The police department initially portrayed the shooting as an emergency domestic violence call. The footage shows the officers discussing the original 911 call as they approached the apartment complex, with one of them acknowledging that the call was likely embellished.
Matthew Cunningham, the attorney representing Whitaker’s family, argued that the bodycam footage revealed that the officers overreacted. “The Phoenix Police Department knew from the night of the shooting that this was a false and exaggerated 911 call,” he said.
In his second 911 call, the neighbor stated that he heard people screaming at each other in Whitaker’s apartment and claimed he couldn’t sleep because of the noise. He claimed that the incident had become violent. “It could be physical,” he told the dispatcher. “I could say yeah if that makes anybody hurry on up. Get anybody here faster.”
Ferragamo can be heard mocking the 911 call on the bodycam footage. “‘I’m just gonna say yes to all the questions to get the officers here faster,’ ” he said, mocking the caller.
A slow-motion version of the video seems to show that Whitaker had put the gun down right before Officer Cooke shoots him. He then falls to the ground, twisting in agony, and struggling to breathe. Shortly after, Brandee Nees, Whitaker’s girlfriend, comes out of the apartment screaming, “Why did you shoot him?”
Whitaker’s girlfriend told officers that he answered the door carrying his gun because someone had knocked on his door a few nights earlier and was gone when he answered the door. She also explained on another occasion, a woman knocked on his door to get help because she got into a fight with her partner. According to Nees, these two incidents caused him to be on edge when it came to knocks on his door in the middle of the night.
As for the noise complaint, Nees explained that they had been playing a video game at the time and were screaming while having fun. She stated that there was no argument or violent altercation.
In a press conference, members of Whitaker’s family stated that they wanted the officers fired and for Cooke to be charged with murder. “He’s not a threat.. not a threat at all. How is he a threat? If he is 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,” said Steven Whitaker, the victim’s brother. “Phoenix PD wonders why there’s lack of trust right now in Phoenix PD. There’s no accountability. There’s no transparency.”
The family also called for the firing of the 911 operator for escalating the call that led to the officers being sent to the apartment. They also called for charges to be filed against the 911 caller for falsely claiming that there was a violent disturbance to prompt police action.
Phoenix residents have spoken out against Whitaker’s killing, especially since no action has been taken against Officer Cooke, who is still employed by the police department as of this writing. Even the Phoenix Black Lives Matter chapter condemned the killing even though Whitaker was white.
As the debate rages over law enforcement and police brutality, stories like this remind us that conservatives must not allow the left to dominate this conversation. As we can see from the Black Lives Matter riots that have been occurring across the country, the white progressives who are inciting and participating in these violent demonstrations have no intention of pushing for real change in this matter.
While progressive activists continue to act like children, it’s time for sensible Americans on both sides to be the adults in the room and formulate genuine solutions instead of just responding to the far left’s antics. It is the only way to make a positive difference.
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