Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.
Victim of shooting, Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.
|Location||White Plains, New York|
|Participants||Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Several police officers, Medical alert operator, Sister of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.|
|Charges||none; no indictment by grand jury|
The murder of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., occurred on November 19, 2011, in White Plains, New York. After his Life Aid medical alert necklace was inadvertently triggered, police came to his home and demanded that he open his front door. Despite his objections and statements that he did not need help, the police broke down Chamberlain's door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. Chamberlain was a 68-year-old, African-American, retired former-Marine, and a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections. He wore the medical alert bracelet due to a chronic heart problem.
At approximately 5 am, on November 19, 2011, Chamberlain was at home in the Winbrook Public Housing  at 135 S. Lexington Avenue  in White Plains, New York. His Life Aid medical alert device was triggered, sending an alert to a Life Alert Emergency Response customer service operator, who in turn called the City of White Plains Department of Public Safety. In response, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians were dispatched. At Chamberlain's home, police knocked on his door. Chamberlain told them through the door, he did not call them, did not require assistance, was not having a medical emergency, and asked them to leave. Police refused to leave his home, and insisted that Chamberlain open the door. Throughout the entire incident, an audio recording was made by a Life Alert device in the home.
The police became more insistent, and began banging on the door. Chamberlain then contacted the Life Alert operator asking them for help. He stated that the White Plains Police employees were going to enter his home and kill him. The police continued to bang on the door, and then attempt to force it open for approximately one hour. During that time, officer Steven Hart swore at him and called him a "nigger."
Upon breaking down his door, they entered Chamberlain's apartment. Police allege Chamberlain came at them with a butcher knife when they broke down the door. Chamberlain's family claims the elderly Chamberlain was unarmed, and did not resist. Police tased him, and then shot him with a bean bag round fired from a shotgun. Chamberlain allegedly continued to charge at officers with a butcher knife when Officer Anthony Carelli (whose name was withheld for over four months) shot him twice in the chest with live ammunition. A camera mounted on the taser captured the tasing, but was not functioning during the shooting. Chamberlain later died in surgery at White Plains Hospital.
An autopsy conducted on November 21 revealed that one bullet hit Chamberlain sideways, passing through his right arm and then both lungs. The other bullet seems to have missed. The autopsy, performed by Westchester County Chief Medical Examiner Kunjlata Ashar, also revealed Taser burns on Chamberlain's neck and abdomen. Chamberlain's blood contained alcohol content of 0.11, and the muscle-relaxant cyclobenzaprine. The autopsy found "no drugs of abuse" in Chamberlain's system.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. responded: “I’m glad the autopsy is out and shows that my father’s hands were at his sides. It absolutely shows that my father wasn’t the aggressor and that deadly force was not necessary.”
A grand jury reviewed the case and decided that no criminal charge would be made against police officers involved in the killing. Because grand jury proceedings are secret in New York, the details of the case presented to this body are not known. Lawyers for the family suggest that the case may have been presented in a misleading or ineffective way and are therefore seeking other legal recourses, such as requesting a federal investigation. On July 2, 2012 a civil suit for $21 million was filed by the victim's son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. against the City of White Plains and the White Plains Police Department. In November, 2012, the Chamberlain family amended their lawsuit to require the city to modify police procedures with the mentally ill.
Police department review
White Plains mayor Thomas Roach has announced that he will bring in "outside experts to do a broad review of" policy for the city's police department. The commission's chair will be Dr. Maria Haberfeld, a political science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the academic coordinator for New York's Executive Police Institute.
An online petition was created by the son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. By April 6, 2012, it had received nearly 199,900 signatures. It asks for an end to police misconduct and brutality, and for the officers involved to be indicted and charged with murder and civil rights violations. The petition will be delivered to the County District Attorney for Westchester, Janet DiFiore.
Chamberlain Jr. said he was inspired by the petition circulated online by the parents of shooting victim Trayvon Martin, saying, "I signed Trayvon's petition, sat back and thought, 'Well, maybe I should do a petition.'" As of May 3, 2012, the petition has received at least 208,000 signatures.
Accusations of racism have been leveled at both the police officers involved, and at law enforcement and justice systems that were reluctant to react. Chamberlain's son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., discussed both issues with lawyer Mayo Bartlett on Democracy Now, highlighting the absurdity of police shooting a person they were summoned to help, as well as the unusual delay in the grand jury investigation. Chamberlain Jr. said "I wasn’t trying to turn this into any type of racially motivated killing, until we heard the audio"—in particular, Hart's use of the word "nigger." On February 15, 2012, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said his lawyers had filed a notice of claim informing the city, White Plains Public Safety Department, and White Plains Housing Authority to expect the wrongful death lawsuit.
White Plains Police Department
Lawyer Mayo Bartlett points out that the White Plains police system wrote their reports to cover up racism and wrongdoing by the officers. Their transcript of the incident omitted Hart's use of the word "nigger," as well as the information that the original call had been for a medical emergency. Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said in a May 3, 2012 statement that the Police Department would conduct an internal review of the incident and fully cooperate with an independent study to be done by a panel of experts to review the department's policies and procedures and recommend any improvements.
- 04/ 4/2012 2:31 pm Updated: 04/ 4/2012 2:31 pm (2012-04-04). "Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Killing: DA Will Present Cops' Shooting Of Former Marine To Grand Jury". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- The Grio (2012-05-04). "Kenneth Chamberlain’s shooter cleared of all charges". theGrio. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Rose Arce and Soledad O'Brien (2012-05-04). "Police officer cleared in shooting death of ailing veteran in New York". CNN. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- Coscarelli, Joe. "White Plains Police Cleared in Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain - Daily Intel". Nymag.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Jim Hoffer (2012-04-19). "Medical alert device records police shooting". WABC. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- Trangle, Sarina. "DA Will Present White Plains' Chamberlain Shooting to Grand Jury". The White Plains Daily Voice. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- JUAN GONZALEZWednesday, April 04, 2012 (2012-04-04). "Marine vet shot, killed by cops - New York Daily News". Articles.nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Police officer cleared in shooting death of ailing veteran in New York - CNN.com". Edition.cnn.com. 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Goodman, Amy; Joan Gonzales (5 April 2012). "Exclusive: Cop in Fatal Shooting of Ex-Marine Kenneth Chamberlain ID’d, Sued in 2008 Racism Case". Democracy Now. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- "No Indictment In Police Killing Of Kenneth Chamberlain (VIDEO)". Global Grind. 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- CNN Wire Staff (16 April 2012). "New York shooting of elderly man draws parallels to Trayvon Martin case". CNN. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Trangle, Sarina. "Chamberlain Family Asks For Audio, Video Release in White Plains Police Shooting". The White Plains Daily Voice.
- Trangle, Sarina. "Chamberlain's Son Seeks Name of Officer Who Used Slur". The White Plains Daily Voice. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- Coscarelli, Joe (2012-03-29). "Police Shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Going to Grand Jury Four Months Later - Daily Intel". Nymag.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr". SignOn.org. 2011-11-19. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- "Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.: Police Shouted Racial Slurs At Victim, A La Trayvon Martin, Before Killing Him - International Business Times". Ibtimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Trangle, Sarina. "Chamberlain's Shooter Accused in $10M Civil Rights Case". The White Plains Daily Voice. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Police 'Tasered black ex-Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr to death' in New York | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Gonzales, Juan (10 April 2012). "Former Marine shot by White Plains police died from bullet that entered arm and ripped through his lungs, autopsy reveals". New York Daily News. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Richard Liebson, "Kenneth Chamberlain autopsy contradicts police, family lawyer says", The Journal News, 11 April 2012.
- "Kenneth Chamberlain’s Family Seeks Lawsuit, Federal Probe as Grand Jury Rejects Charging Officers". Democracynow.org. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
- Brian Donnelly, Patrick Stapleton. "Nearly 200 Rally in White Plains for Chamberlain". The White Plains Daily Voice.
- "Chamberlain Family Files $21 Million Lawsuit Against White Plains". The White Plains Daily Voice. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- Yang, Lucy (8 May 2012). "Chamberlain shooting prompts policy review". ABC Local. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Donnelly, Brian (7 May 2012). "Chamberlain Jr: Suspend Officers in Father's Death". The Bronxville Daily Voice. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- "Maria Haberfeld". Faculty Pages. John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Donnelly, Brian. "U.S. Attorney to Review Chamberlain Shooting". The White Plains Daily Voice.
- Goodman, Amy; Juan Gonzales (29 March 2012). "Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68". Democracy Now. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Trangle, Sarina. "Chamberlain Family to Sue White Plains Police". The White Plains Daily Voice. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- Donnelly, Brian. "Local, State NAACP Support Chamberlain Family".
- "Justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr." petition
- Democracy Now! news video: Kenneth Chamberlain’s Family Seeks Lawsuit, Federal Probe as Grand Jury Rejects Charging Officers, Friday, May 4, 2012
- Democracy Now! news video: Kenneth Chamberlain’s Family Files Suit After White Plains Police Evade Charges for Slaying, Slurs, Monday, July 2, 2012