There are far too many of these stories. Maybe now, thanks to the Trayvon Martin case, internal affairs investigators will actually do their jobs and reporters won’t be quite so eager to accept the official version of events. This case in November, featured on Democracy Now!, involved a 68-year-old man who accidentally pressed his medical alarm and ended up shot to death by police:
JUAN GONZALEZ: As the shooting death of Trayvon Martin continues to draw national attention, today we look at another controversial shooting of an African-American male that has received far less scrutiny. On the morning of November 19th, a 68-year-old former marine named Kenneth Chamberlain with a heart condition accidentally pressed the button on his medical alert system while sleeping. Responding to the alert, police officers from the city of White Plains, New York, arrived at Chamberlain’s apartment in a public housing complex shortly after 5 a.m. By the time the police left the apartment, Kenneth Chamberlain was dead, shot twice in the chest by a police officer inside his home. Police gained entry to Chamberlain’s apartment only after they took his front door off its hinges. Officers first shot him with a taser, then a beanbag shotgun, and then with live ammunition.
AMY GOODMAN: Police have insisted the use of force was warranted. They said Kenneth Chamberlain was emotionally disturbed and had pulled a knife on the officers. This is David Chong, public safety commissioner in White Plains.
DAVID CHONG: The officers first used an electronic taser, which was discharged, hit the victim, and had no effect. While the officers were retreating, the officers then used a shotgun, a beanbag shotgun.
AMY GOODMAN: 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.
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