Phoenix Police to Fire Officer Who Fatally Shot Ryan Whitaker in the Back

The Phoenix Police Department will reportedly fire an officer who fatally shot 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker in the back last summer.

Whitaker was shot twice in the back by Officer Jeff Cooke in May 2020, less than three seconds after Whitaker answered the door of his Ahwatukee apartment.

Police were responding to a noise complaint when Whitaker answered the door while holding a gun at his side. His family said he did so because they had recent issues with someone banging on their door at night.

Body camera footage shows Whitaker immediately move the gun behind his back upon seeing the officers at the door. The responding officers are heard screaming "hands" as Whitaker backs up and lifts his hands in the air.

Whitaker, a father, then squats down and puts the hand with the gun towards the floor.

At that moment, Cooke fires his guns three times as Whitaker falls forward into the walkway. Whitaker's gun was later recovered inside the apartment, inches from the doorway.

In a statement made Thursday, the police department said that an internal review has led to its decision to terminate Cooke's employment, although the officer will remain on administrative leave until he is officially removed from the force.

"On May 26, 2021, the Use of Force Board, comprised of sworn staff and community members, reviewed the shooting involving Officer Jeff Cooke, and recommended the incident be designated as within policy. 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," the statement read. "The administrative process is still underway. In the interim, Officer Cooke remains on administrative leave."

Cooke will be allowed to appeal the police chief's decision to fire him.

Meanwhile, Officer John Ferragamo, who was Cooke's partner at the time of the incident, the Arizona Republic reported, remains on full duty.

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in protest at the Maricopa County District Attorney's office in October. Later that year, a $3 million settlement was negotiated with Whitaker's family and approved unanimously by Phoenix City Council.

In January, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced that Cooke would not face any charges in the incident after he told investigators that he fired his gun believing his partner was "in imminent danger."

"The door comes flying open and I hear him say something. I was like 'gun' and I took a couple steps back and started to draw," Cooke told investigators. "I was instantly in fear for my own life and for John. And I saw him go right toward John with the firearm. I then shot him and ended the threat."

However, Whitaker's sister, Katie Baeza, said the body camera video tells a different story.

"This video speaks for itself," she wrote in a Facebook post. "They murdered my brother. He was kneeling down to put the gun down and had his left hand in the air!! His eyes are scared and surprised!! I'll never forget the way he looked. I can't breathe!!! That cop needs to be fired and rot in prison, COWARD!!!!!!"

Phoenix police to fire cop after shooting
Police car siren - stock photo. The Phoenix Police Department will reportedly fire an officer who fatally shot 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker in the back last summer. istock/Getty/Images_By_Kenny