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Family of man shot, killed by Phoenix police says incident was ‘out of character’

Police said 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker was shot and killed by officers Thursday night in Ahwatukee.
Credit: Katie Baeza

PHOENIX — The family of a man shot and killed by Phoenix police officers Thursday night is seeking answers. They say the department’s description of what happened that night does not sound like actions their loved one would have taken.

Police said 40-year-old Ryan Whitaker was shot and killed by officers Thursday night in Ahwatukee.

Phoenix police said they were called to an apartment complex on Desert Foothills Parkway south of Chandler Boulevard around 11 p.m. Thursday night. 

Police said the caller reported a lot of yelling and slamming doors from the condo next door. A second call came in a short time later saying the situation may have become physical.

RELATED: Officers shoot, kill man while responding to domestic violence incident in Ahwatukee

“What did they actually hear that made them call? What did they actually hear that made them call a second time to escalate this call to a higher alert?” Katie Baeza, Whitaker’s sister said.

Phoenix police said two officers went to Whitaker’s door, knocked, and identified themselves. Police said the officers did not have their guns drawn at the time. They said that’s when Whitaker came to the door with a gun and moved quickly toward one of the officers, according to police. Police said an officer then shot and killed Whitaker.

12 News requested body camera video and 911 calls from the incident, but the Phoenix Police Department has not released them.

The officers involved in the shooting include a 53-year-old who has been on the force for 23 years and a 33-year-old who has served for two years. 

“It’s very out of character. My brother was pro-police he respected police officers and their job,” Baeza said.

Baeza said things don’t add up in her mind. She said Whitaker and his girlfriend were playing video games that night after celebrating his daughter’s high school graduation.

“If he came to that door with a gun he did not know police were on the other side of that door. There’s no doubt in my mind he had no idea,” Baeza said.

Whitaker does not have a criminal history in Maricopa County, and Phoenix Police did not have information available on if they have a call history with Whitaker.

“My brother would not have not chosen to live had he been given the opportunity,” Baeza said.

Baeza said she and her family are looking for clarity.

 “There’s a hole in our family,” Baeza said.  “We just want to know what happened.”



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If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, here are some resources available to you. Keep in mind your computer use or call history may be monitored. You may want to use a trusted friend's computer or a computer at a public library to navigate the sites below. 

Once it's safe to do so, follow the links to learn more. 

- Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence: azcadv.org

Their helpline is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 602-279-2900 or 800-782-6400

- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Online chat is available 24/7 here.

- How to get a protection order in Maricopa County if you're a survivor of domestic violence: azlawhelp.org

- Here are the rules for obtaining a protection order in Arizona

- Find legal advocacy, emergency shelter and housing intervention services in Arizona for survivors of domestic violence: des.az.gov

- Where to take your pets if you are entering a domestic violence shelter: Arizona Humane Society Project Safehouse

Call 911 if you are in danger.

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