crimes and misdemeanors

Police Shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Going to Grand Jury Four Months Later

Kenneth Chamberlain was shot and killed by police after being Tasered in his White Plains apartment on November 19 of last year. According to the police account, the 68-year-old former Marine came at officers with a hatchet and a knife, and their use of deadly force in self-defense was deemed “warranted.” More than four months later, a campaign by Chamberlain’s family to publicize what they say was an unnecessary killing is gaining momentum. This week, the White Plains district attorney confirmed that a grand jury will hear the details of the deadly incident, and today, the story covers the Daily News, whose Juan Gonzalez writes, “Like 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Chamberlain was African-American, and his death has added fuel to the growing national debate that has flared since the Florida teen was killed on Feb. 26.”

Police were dispatched to Chamberlain’s apartment because the medical alert system he wore for his chronic heart problem went off, possibly by accident. The system’s two-way intercom reportedly recorded everything that occurred in the apartment that morning, and video was taken by a security camera and one attached to the police stun gun.

According to Chamberlain’s family, he was startled by the police visit, leading to a stand-off, during which officers mocked the veteran. Chamberlain reportedly yelled, “Semper fi,” to which officers responded, “Hoo-rah!” Another told Chamberlain they needed to use his bathroom. Someone outside the apartment reportedly screamed, “I don’t give a f–k, n—-r, open the door!”

Authorities eventually removed the door and found Chamberlain in only his boxers, hands empty, his family says. “The minute they got in the house, they didn’t even give him one command,” said the family’s lawyer. “They never mentioned ‘put your hands up.’ They never told him to lay down on the bed. The first thing they did … you could see the Taser light up … and you could see it going directly toward him.” According to the family, there’s no more video from that point on, but police claim that’s when Chamberlain charged at them with a knife and he was shot two times.

Mainstream media reports on the case have been few and far between, so far. Earlier this year, it was mentioned briefly in the New York Post, which quoted Chamberlain’s son saying, “In my opinion, they made it a hate crime. In my opinion, they murdered my father.” Last month, the Times’ Michael Powell told the story. “They put fear in his heart,” said a neighbor who heard the clash from across the hall. “It wasn’t a crime scene until they made it one.” And today, the Daily News gives Chamberlain’s family their most prominent placement yet.

The Daily White Plains, meanwhile, has exhaustive coverage of the case, which, like early on in the Martin case, has also spread via left-wing websites such as Democracy Now and social media like Twitter and Facebook, where one report has been shared nearly 30,000 times. A petition to have audio and video from the case released has more than 170,000 signatures. Last week, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach gave his “condolences” to Chamberlain’s family.

Is New York’s Own Trayvon Martin Case Brewing?