The son of a retired corrections officer and Marine Corps veteran has signaled his intention to sue the White Plains (N.Y.) Department of Public Safety, alleging two white police officers committed a hate crime during an emergency response call that resulted in his father’s death.
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, was shot to death on Nov. 19, after police responded to a medical alert at Chamberlain’s home. Chamberlain, who had a heart condition, apparently accidentally pressed the device in his sleep, authorities said.
Chamberlain, a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections, declined to let officers enter his apartment, explaining the call had been triggered accidentally.
His son said that LifeAid Medical Alert Services, the company that issues the medical device, confirmed to police that the call was a mistake, but officers insisted on being admitted into the apartment.
The exchange was captured by an audio recording on the medical device, as well as a video camera on a police taser gun used on Chamberlain.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said that based on the audio and videotapes he has heard and seen, police were overly aggressive when they could have simply left the scene once it was confirmed the call for assistance was in error.
“They were responding to a medical emergency. My father didn’t commit a crime,” the younger Chamberlain said.
The officers, however, “chose to taunt him, knocked the door down. They gave him no directions, no orders, and you see them shoot him with the taser, and you hear one of them say, ‘Hit it again; hit it again,’ then something like ‘Turn it off.’”
Chamberlain said police were verbally abusive, cussing at his father and using a racial epithet while demanding access.
The police department initially said that at one stage of the confrontation, the elder Chamberlain stuck a knife through a crack in the door at the officers, and that once police broke down the door to get into the apartment, they shot the elderly man in self-defense.
“At one point, you do see something coming out of a crack in the door, but you cannot determine what it is, but the door was closed at the time, then it was cracked,” Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said, describing the sequence of events on the video.
The police department has released no further statements in the case.
“I was just lucky to have a third party, which was LifeAid, which (police) didn’t know was recording,” Chamberlain said.
Last week, attorneys for Chamberlain filed a notice of claim declaring his intention to sue the department for the wrongful death of his father. The city has 30 days to respond to the notice and attempt to settle the matter. If no agreement is reached within 30 days, a lawsuit may then be filed.
Further, details of the case go to a grand jury next month and could return with criminal indictments against the police officers.
Chamberlain said that in the meantime, a rally and news conference is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 regarding the case.
Even with the recordings capturing the incident, however, Chamberlain said he expects the investigation will take longer than usual because police officers were involved.
“I’m sure it’s not going to move as fast because it’s a police officer, and they are going to dot all their Is and cross all my Ts,” Chamberlain said. “I don’t take anything for granted.”