Just weeks after learning about how unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a local neighborhood watchman, another family is stepping forward, claiming that no one has yet been charged for the killing of their patriach, 68-year-old retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. The family alleges Chamberlain, who was African American, was shot and killed by White Plains police on Nov. 19, 2011.
Similar to the Trayvon Martin case, the family also claims that the officers shouted racial slurs at Chamberlain before they killed him. Unlike Trayvon's case, however, there are audio and video recordings of Chamberlain's murder.
Chamberlain's son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., appeared on the Democracy Now! radio talk show on March 29 to discuss his father's death. Chamberlain said that in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 19, Chamberlain accidentally pressed the button on his LifeAid medical alert system while he was sleeping, which prompted police officers to respond to the call and arrive at Chamberlain's apartment at about 5 a.m. Sure enough, two police officers from nearby White Plains, N.Y., arrived on the scene. The police broke the front door off its hinges, and by the time they left, Chamberlain was dead, shot twice in the chest.
The two police officers shot Chamberlain first with a taser, then a beanbag shotgun, and finally with live ammunition.
Since the LifeAid system records all calls with distressed patients, the entire event in Chamberlain's was recorded over audio.
The medical company asked him if he was all right, Chamberlain, Jr. said. They didn't get a response. So, automatically, if you don't get a response, they send medical services to your house. They informed the police that they are responding to a medical emergency, not a crime. And once they arrived at my father's home, my father did tell them that he was OK. But for some reason, they wanted to gain entry into my father's home. I don't know why. And in the audio, you hear my father telling them that he's fine, he's OK.
The audio continued to record throughout Chamberlain's entire confrontation with police. The Westchester County DA's office allowed Chamberlain and his lawyers to listen to his father's last moments, but the recording has not yet been released to the public.
When police arrived, Chamberlain, Jr. said his father told the police he was okay through the door, but they refused to leave.
He's saying that he's OK. He's saying that he did not call for them. But they were very insistent, Chamberlain, Jr. said. They were banging on the door, banging on the door, banging on the door. So you hear one of the officers say to him, Well, you pushed your-you triggered your alarm now. He said, That's because I want you to leave me alone. And they just kept telling him, Open the door. Open the door. Let us see that you're all right. At some point, the door was cracked open, because the police officers have a taser that has a camera on it, and it also has audio. So you could see where the door was cracked open. So, once you've gotten a visual, and you've seen that my father is OK, and he's telling you that he's OK, why would you still insist on getting into the apartment? Which is the question that I have. And they weren't responding to a crime. He was sleeping and accidentally triggered his alarm.
Chamberlain, Jr. said that his father and police shared a long exchange on either side of the door, and his father even pleaded with police to leave him alone.
He says, 'I'm a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. Why are you doing this to me?' Chamberlain, Jr. said. 'I know what you're going to do: you're going to come in here, and you're going to kill me.' You also hear him pleading with the officers again, over and over. And at one point, that's when the expletive is used by one of the police officers.
Mayo Bartlett, one of Chamberlain, Jr.'s lawyers, got into more detail about the racial slurs used by the police officers.
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. said to the police, 'I'm a sick old man.' One of the police officers replied, 'We don't give a f*ck, n*gger!'
Bartlett also said the recording picked up how the police taunted him. They even mocked his military service.
'Open the door, Kenny, you're a grown-ass man!' relayed Bartlett.
He said, 'Semper fi.' So they said, 'Oh, you're a marine. Hoo-rah. Hoo-rah,' Chamberlain, Jr. said. And this is somebody that served this country. Why would you even say that to him?
Others tried to intervene. The LifeAid operator, listening to the event take place that morning, the individual called the White Plains police department to cancel the emergency. Chamberlain, Sr.'s niece, who also lives in the same building as her uncle, rand own the stairs and tried to intervene, but the police denied her attempts. In the recording, you can hear the police say, We don't need any mediator.
The police allege Chamberlain attempted to attack them with a weapon before they eventually broke into the home, but Chamberlain, Jr., who has seen both video and audio of the event, doesn't know when his father could have attacked them.
He was inside his home, Chamberlain, Jr. said. Where was the immediate threat?
Chamberlain, Jr. said that the police officers eventually broke down the cracked door. The rest of the event was captured on video, thanks to a Taser-mounted camera. Barlett said he saw Chamberlain, Sr., without a shirt, hands by his sides, and without any kind of weapon like a knife or a hatchet in his hands, as police have since alleged.
Chamberlain, Jr. insists that the officers never issued any type of verbal command, like getting down on the floor or putting his hands up or against the wall.
The minute they got into the house, they didn't even give him one command, Bartlett said. They never mentioned, 'put your hands up'. They never told him to lay down on the bed. They never did any of that. The first thing they did, as soon as that door was finally broken off the hinges, you could see the Taser light up, and it was charged, and you could see it going directly toward him.
You can see on the video from the taser that they fired a taser at him, Chamberlain, Jr. said. And I'm assuming that both prongs didn't go in. He stood about maybe eight to 10 feet away from them with his hands down to his side. And at one point, you hear one of the officers say, 'Shut it off.' And it was at that point they shot and killed my father.
Minutes after the officer turned off the video recording, Chamberlain was dead with two bullet holes in his chest.
Four months later, no one is behind bars for this heinous crime. However, that may soon change.
Juan Gonzalez, one of the two co-hosts of the Democracy Now! radio show, has revealed one of the shooters to be White Plains police officer Anthony Carelli. Carelli already has a trial scheduled within the next few months for a different police brutality case, in which he allegedly beat two brothers - sons of Jordanian immigrants - while shouting slurs at them. Jereis Hatter, one of the victims, said Carelli called him a raghead as he was beaten while handcuffed.
Chamberlain's case is eerily similar to the recent Trayvon Martin case, but this one is entirely more troubling. Both cases involve racial overtones. In both cases, unarmed African American men were gunned down. Both cases even know who the shooters are. But in this case, the shooter is the police, and no one has been arrested or charged.
Read the full autopsy report for Kenneth Chamberlain here.
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