Attorneys for the family of a Marine veteran slain in his home by White Plains police filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan this week.
The lawsuit, on behalf of the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., was filed Monday, less than two months after a Westchester County grand jury decided not to indict officers involved in the case, and names the City of White Plains, the White Plains Housing Authority and eight police officers as liable in the incident.
On Nov. 19, the 68-year-old Chamberlain was shot to death by White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli following a confrontation at Chamberlain’s apartment, where police responded to a medical alert from a Life Aid device.
Chamberlain, who had a heart condition, apparently accidentally pressed the device in his sleep. When police arrived, he refused to let them enter his apartment, explaining the call was a mistake.
LifeAid Medical Alert Services, the company that issued the medical device, confirmed to police that the call was a mistake, but the 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.
What started off as a “we have to check you out” request turned into a gruff, heated confrontation in which police cussed at Chamberlain, even calling him “nigger” during the exchange, and demanded that Chamberlain let them into the apartment. Police tasered Chamberlain, then shot him dead.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore later told the New York Daily News that the use of the N-word was meant to “distract” Chamberlain, whom she described as emotionally disturbed, but also said she condemned the tactic.
The district attorney’s office has released tapes in which Chamberlain told the LifeAid operator he would not open his door to police who, he said, could hear him through the door tell them he did not need assistance.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., who vowed to keep the pressure on local officials, asked the city to suspend officers involved pending the outcome of a federal investigation of the case and he has participated in marches and has conducted several interviews to bring attention to the killing.
Family lawyer Randolph McLaughlin said that in some ways, the Chamberlain case was worse than the Trayvon Martin case.
“And here’s why. Trayvon Martin was killed in a horrible situation by a vigilante. He wasn’t hired or an employee of the city or law enforcement. He was just a wacko nut out there carrying a gun and did a terrible thing. This was—it was almost like an invading army was storming this man’s castle, because your home is supposed to be your castle. So it wasn’t like they had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision, you know, someone’s coming at them with a gun or a knife, and it’s us or them. They had an hour to figure out how to handle this. They had up to 10 to 12 officers around. There was a lieutenant in the station house. There were sergeants there. I mean, it wasn’t like they were a bunch of rogue officers just making a quick decision. They planned, they executed their plan, and they executed this man.”