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Phoenix to pay $3 million to family of man shot, killed by police

Ryan Whitaker opened his apartment door when police knocked in May. Moments later, he was dead.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday to pay $3 million to the family of a man shot and killed by Phoenix police in May.

Police were called to Ryan Whitaker's apartment complex on Desert Foothills Parkway south of Chandler Boulevard around 11 p.m., responding to a 911 call. 

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.

Officers knocked on Whitaker's door. He answered with a gun in his left hand and moved his hand behind his back. An officer fired as he began to kneel down. He was shot twice, according to the notice of claim filed against the city.

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The notice of claim was filed about three weeks ago, naming the city of Phoenix, Chief Jeri Williams and the two officers involved. It claims the city was "reckless" and "unjustified" in shooting and killing Whitaker. 

"Ryan Whitaker did everything right that night," Councilmember Sal DiCiccio said during the comment period on the vote for the settlement. 

DiCiccio added during his comments that it showed a "strong callousness" that those on scene the night Whitaker was shot and killed did not immediately call for medical help. 

Councilmembers Carlos Garcia and Laura Pastor added that more transparency was still needed. 

"We not only failed this family in our policies, I also feel like we failed them in walking them through this process," Garcia said. 

Ultimately, the council approved the settlement for up to $3 million unanimously. 

"Money isn't going to replace my brother," Katie Baeza, Whitaker's sister said. 

Baeza said while the money helps Whitaker's kids, she hopes it brings about change in policy, training, and de-escalation tactics. 

“This is about justice in the form of them having to pay money out that hopefully implements change in their department that they realize this is a problem," Baeza said. 

Baeza is still hoping criminal charges will be brought against officers involved. 

"I will never give up fighting because this is wrong," Baeza said. 

A spokesperson with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office tells 12 News that the office is still reviewing the investigation into Whitaker's death by the Phoenix Police Department to decide if criminal charges should be filed. 

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.

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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