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Phoenix police plan to fire officer who fatally shot Ryan Whitaker

(Phoenix Police Department Screenshot)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department plans to fire the officer who fatally shot a man who answered his apartment door while carrying his gun in a May 2020 incident prosecutors called “a tragedy.”

Officer Jeff Cooke wasn’t criminally charged after body camera video (WARNING: Graphic content) showed he shot Ryan Whitaker, 40, three times in the doorway of his Ahwatukee residence as he was backing away on May 21, 2020.

“After extensive review of the totality of the circumstances, Chief Williams has notified Officer Cooke of the intent to move forward to end his employment with the Phoenix Police Department,” Sgt. Ann Justus told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email.

Cooke and Officer John Ferragamo were responding to a neighbor’s 911 call reporting a domestic dispute. The investigation found no signs of an altercation, only that Whitaker and his girlfriend were playing a loud videogame, according to a statement from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors concluded that Whitaker wasn’t a threat but it was understandable why Cooke didn’t see it that way.

The department’s Use of Force Board reviewed the incident in May and recommended the incident be designated as within policy.

“The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association is disappointed in the decision by the Phoenix Police Department to terminate Officer Jeff Cooke due to a shooting deemed in-policy by the Department’s Use of Force Board and will support him through the appeal process,” PLEA said in a statement.

Whitaker’s family has called for both Cooke and Ferragamo to be fired and for Cooke to be prosecuted for murder. In December, the Phoenix City Council approved a $3 million settlement with the family.

Justus said the administrative process is ongoing. Cooke remains on administrative leave.

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