Police Abuse

Phoenix Will Pay $3 Million Settlement After Police Shot a Man During a Noise Complaint. The Officers Are Still Employed.

And taxpayers will foot the bill.

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The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to pay $3 million to the family of Ryan Whitaker, who was shot and killed several months ago by police investigating a noise complaint and who did not receive immediate medical assistance after the incident.

Taxpayers will be footing the bill. Taxpayers are also footing the bill for the salaries of the cops—Officer Jeff Cooke, who pulled the trigger, and Officer John Ferragamo, who too was on the call—as they are both still employed by the Phoenix Police Department (PPD).

On May 21 of this year, Whitaker's upstairs neighbor called in a noise complaint: "I have a domestic dispute going on…and I can tell they're just at each other's throats down there," a man is heard saying on a 911 call. "I gotta get to work tomorrow and I can't get no sleep." Asked by the dispatcher if it sounded like a physical or verbal altercation, the neighbor responded that "it could be physical, I could say yeah, if that makes [the police] hurry up on."

They were playing Crash Bandicoot, a video game, according to Whitaker's girlfriend.

When the officers arrived at Whitaker's apartment, no noise can be heard coming from the unit—potentially an indication that the complainant exaggerated the perceived danger.

Whitaker answered the door with a firearm at his waist, which he legally owned, and can be seen in the body cam footage immediately getting on his knees in surrender. Cooke then shot him twice in the back.

In voting to approve the $3 million settlement, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio zeroed in on what came next: "We don't know if he would have lived or not," he said, according to the local Fox affiliate, "but the fact of the matter is it showed a strong callousness from those individuals that were there to not immediately call for [medical] help." The outfit describes DiCiccio as "usually vocal on his support of law enforcement."

Ferragamo is back on patrol, while Cooke is reportedly in a non-enforcement position. No criminal charges have been filed against them.

The PPD has developed somewhat of a sordid track record of late. The city shelled out $475,000 to Dravon Ames and his family after police brandished their weapons and threatened to shoot him and his pregnant fiancée when their 4-year-old daughter shoplifted a Barbie from a Family Dollar store in May 2019. "I'm gonna put a fucking cap right in your fucking head!" a cop can be heard saying in video footage captured via a bystander. That same officer, Chris Meyer, is seen kicking Ames after he had been handcuffed, and the family's suit alleges the officer punched Ames "very hard in the back for no reason." Meyer has since been terminated.

And in August of this year, Ramon Lopez died after a group of cops pinned him down on hot asphalt for several minutes, streaking his back with what appear to be burns. He was reported for loitering in a parking lot, "sticking his tongue out," and "looking at people's cars."

All three instances provide a gruesome window into excessive force. But they also put forward an important lesson on the potential effects of overcriminalization—particularly in Whitaker's and Lopez's cases—where armed agents of the state are routinely relied upon not only to address violent crimes, but to investigate minor inconveniences.

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  1. “Meyer has since been terminated.”

    Nah. He just lost his job there, and will get one somewhere else.

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    2. That’s exactly what happens. When these guys lose their jobs, they just move to the next jurisdiction over. There have been guys who get fired over and over and just keep finding new jobs in new places. Their previous record means nothing.

  2. Did Whitaker die? I presume so, given the councilman’s statement that “We don’t know if he would have lived or not,” but the article never says so. Generally, when an article only says that a person was “shot,” you can infer that he survived, just as if it only says he “attended” a college, you can infer that he didn’t graduate.

    1. There’s also the initial remark that the victim “did not receive immediate medical assistance after the incident” but no further discussion. Did they wait an hour, 5 minutes, 5 seconds, what? Nothing in any of the articles says anything about how long the cops waited to call for medical help.

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    2. First link in the first sentence.

      1. Readers shouldn’t have to follow a link to find out something so basic as whether the victim was just shot or was shot dead.

        I see that the text of the article has been revised since my initial comment to make it clear that the cops killed Whitaker.

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    4. Except for the first paragraph of the article where it clearly states ” shot and killed several months ago by police investigating a noise complaint”, you are absolutely correct.

      1. There was also the fact that the settlement was paid to his family and not him.

  3. If Mr. Whitaker were Black he’d still be alive. Where’s the NRA on this? I guess the Second Amendment only applies to LGBT+, women and people of color.

  4. I think I remember watching this and the guy died. Girlfriend was screaming. It looked like was hell on earth. I hate cops. By and large they are the worst kinds of people, obviously not every single one but as a group they are fucking scum and morons.

    1. But I also “hate” mayonnaise so it’s not like the police state we live in is keeping me up at night. It’s just sad really. Stupidity and guns.

      1. But is mayonnaise racist?

        1. Must be. Egg whites.

          But if the whites come from brown eggs??? It’s too confusing!

      2. “But I also “hate” mayonnaise so it’s not like the police state we live in is keeping me up at night.”

        Are you sure because it looks exactly like the police state is keeping you up at night because you felt the need to clarify your “hate” lest you get a visit for your view or get added to your permanent record.

        Cops do not respect back tracking pussies. Own your hate.

  5. It should probably be mentioned:

    Anyone calling the police on a noise complaint about one of their apartment neighbors is a huge asshole.

    This guy is an even bigger asshole, because he called it in before 10pm.

    Since the Phoenix noise ordinance doesn’t begin until 11pm anyway, what the fuck were these officers doing responding in the first place?

    1. “Noise complaint” is a bit misleading. It was called in as a possibly violent domestic dispute. That makes the neighbor an even bigger asshole, since he’s already given the cops the idea that there’s violence.

    2. I disagree. I have had to call the police due to excessive noise myself. People are entitled to a reasonably quiet environment, certainly to be able to sleep. I have had to deal with jerks who would play their 200 watt stereo full blast late at night. When asked to turn it down, they would do it for a minute or two, but it would shortly be right back up. And some such jerks are become threatening or violent when asked to tone it down. After a few attempts at politely asking them to quiet down, calling the police may be the only way to get a night’s sleep.

      1. I know. I was at my dumbass buddy’s place one night and he was cranking the music up loud. The neighbors came over a few times and asked him to turn it down. He did the same thing, turning it down for a few minutes, then blasting it again. Then the cops came. I left.

      2. There is no indication that he asked them to reduce the noise level at any time, though I suppose it’s possible.

        The noise ordinance doesn’t go into effect until 11pm. The shooting happened at 9:52, so presumably the call was before even that. There is no basis for a noise complaint.

        From one of the links in the article: (emphasis mine)
        In the second 911 call, the caller told 911 dispatchers the incident could be physical.

        “Does it sound like it’s escalated to any physical, or still just sounds verbal?” asked the 911 dispatcher.

        “Oh…it could be physical, I could say, yeah, if that makes anybody hurry up on — get over here any faster,” the man on the second 911 call replied. “I hear slamming of doors, and — I don’t know, somebody could be gettin’ thrown into a door for all I know, but I hear all kinds of banging.”

        I maintain that the caller is still an asshole.

    3. Um….did you read the article? Said the guy said it was a domestic.

      1. The guy called in a noise complaint. When that didn’t work, he altered the story to get the cops there quicker.

  6. …where armed agents of the state are routinely relied upon not only to address violent crimes, but to investigate minor inconveniences.

    And we rely on them so much that they are irreplaceable to us, even when their expertise is incompetence and cowardice.

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  8. Reason has written far more articles criticizing rogue police officers than about the far more dangerous lying totalitarian dictators who call themselves Democrat Governors, County Executives, Mayors, School Boards and Health Directors who locked down economies, industries, schools and businesses for the past nine months based upon false claims about scientific evidence and protecting public health.

    1. We’ve had rogue cops since the beginning of policing. The lockdowns have been going on for nine months.

    2. Who is enforcing the diktats of those dictators? And Reason is constantly talking about that topic. Here’s an article from just yesterday. https://reason.com/2020/12/04/gavin-newsoms-new-stay-at-home-order-a-deathblow-to-californias-small-businesses/

  9. You will get more of this now that you’re supporters of left wing democrats. They have a long memory and Arizona was not kind to them in previous years.

  10. And here we see why ending Qualified Immunity isn’t the panacea Reason (and others) think it would be. The argument for ending QI usually goes, “By making cops personally liable, they will be less likely to do this stuff.” But of course the unions will force the police department to cover the costs of insuring these police. And the response to that is, “Well, if a cop gets more and more expensive the police department will fire them!”

    But as we see above, the police department is paying $3 Million on behalf of these police, and they are still employed. The fact is that the government has always got more of YOUR money to spend, and a mile-long list of reasons why it is crucial for them to do so. They aren’t going to go out of business.

    To break this system, you need to break the police unions. You need to break their control over local city councils. If you cannot do that, eliminating QI will merely shift more lawsuits onto the cities.

    1. Well, the police department in a sense is not paying the 3mill but yes you’re right. The individuals that work for the PD are public citizens too so yes they will be “footing the bill”.

    2. I agree in part. However, I’ve never actually seen Reason writers argue that eliminating QI is a panacea. Clearly it won’t get rid of anything, but it is something that definitely needs to be reformed. Moreover, based on my understanding, eliminating/reducing QI will also make it easier to initiate criminal charges too. Which would likely help. Even if a cop doesn’t go to jail, having a prior felony conviction makes it difficult to get a job. Hence, if one department fires that officer and he is convicted of a felony charges, this would reduce the likelihood he would get picked up by another department (at least I would think).

    3. Ending Qualified Immunity won’t solve everything, but it’s an important step. Regardless of who’s footing the bill, it should be possible to bring suits against police for these blatant, heinous acts.

    4. If you’re going to end Qualified Immunity, then do it for all. Expand it to the private sector and hold journalists liable for slander and defamation. Doctors get criminally charged if a patient dies. Let’s take it to its logical conclusion.

  11. I don’t see how this is even an instance of excessive force. No force whatever was called for as the victim never threatened the police and never made what might have been perceived as a threatening gesture. He went down on his knees with his hands raised, away from his gun. This looks like murder pure and simple.

  12. Wasn’t this guy armed with a gun? And I thought In the video I heard the cops announce who they were before the door opened, I could be wrong. Who comes to the door armed with a gun when cops are outside or just comes to the door with a gun in general? I never have. It’s terrible when anyone dies but I feel like this particular incident doesn’t equate to complete wrong doing.

    Stay at home stay safe and also follow the Coronavirus Disease (COVID 19) Guidelines according to WHO.

    1. Shooting someone twice in the back while they are kneeling is something the US would criticize if it happened in another country.

    2. The cops announced once and then moved away from the door so they weren’t in view from the peephole. Guy had no way to be sure they were cops until he opened the door to whomever might have been outside.

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  15. I feel as if I shouldn’t share my opinion on this case

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