Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American, Marine veteran with a heart condition as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accidentally triggered his medical alert system while sleeping one night last November. When he didn't respond to the system operator who tried to find out if Mr. Chamberlain was alright, the police in White Plains, New York were then alerted to a possible medical emergency. The operator explained that there was no criminal situation.
Police arrive at Chamberlain's apartment in a public housing complex around 5 a.m. on November 19th. They removed his front door from the hinges to gain entry. They shot Mr. Chamberlain with a taser, and then with a beanbag shotgun, and finally with live ammunition they killed him after two shots to the chest.
Relatives of Kenneth Chamberlain have questioned the police portrayal of events that led to his death, and they say audio and video recorded at the scene back up their case. According to the family, Kenneth Chamberlain can be heard on an audio recording of his call to the medical alert system operator saying, quote, "Please leave me alone. I’m 68 with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me? Can you please leave me alone?" Officers allegedly responded by calling Chamberlain a racial slur while urging him to open the door. The audio recording of the incident has not been made public and remains in the possession of the Westchester District Attorney’s office.
In early December, Kenneth Chamberlain, a retired marine, was buried with military honors. The family posted video of part of the ceremony.
Several months after his death, the name of the officer who killed Kenneth Chamberlain has yet to be released. The DA has vowed to convene a grand jury to determine if any of the officers should face charges.
We invited the White Plains Police Department and the Westchester DA’s office on to the program, but they declined to join us or issue a comment. But we are joined by Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., the son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., the victim, and by two of the family’s attorneys. Mayo Bartlett is the former chief of the Bias Crimes Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney’s office and the former chair of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. Randolph McLaughlin is a longtime civil rights attorney. He teaches at Pace Law School.
A rush transcript from the video is available here at Democracy Now!