- Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.
son of Kenneth Chamberlain, who was shot dead by White Plains, New York, police in his own home after a medical alert.
- Mayo Bartlett
attorney for family of Kenneth Chamberlain. He 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.
- Abdulwali Muhammad
attorney for family of Kenneth Chamberlain.
- Gus Dimopoulos
attorney for Jereis and Salameh Hatter
In a broadcast exclusive, we reveal the name of the police officer who allegedly killed 68-year-old Kenneth Chamberlain, the retired African-American Marine who was shot dead in his own home in White Plains, New York, in November after he inadvertently triggered his medical alert pendant. Documented in audio recordings, the White Plains police reportedly used a racial slur, burst through Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, then shot him dead. “The last time I actually really saw my father, other than the funeral, was at the hospital, with his eyes wide open, his tongue hanging out his mouth, and two bullet holes in his chest,” said Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. “And I’m staring at my father, wondering, 'What happened?'”
The alleged shooter, Officer Anthony Carelli, is due in court later this month in an unrelated 2008 police brutality case. He is accused of being the most brutal of a group of officers who allegedly beat two arrestees of Jordanian descent and called them “rag heads.” We speak to Gus Dimopoulos, attorney for Jerry and Sal Hatter. “We allege that the police officers, while in the custody of the White Plains Police Department back at the station, you know, severely beat Jerry while being restrained by handcuffs. They hit him in the face with a nightstick, they kicked, they punched, they punched him, and then essentially charged him with a crime,” Dimopoulos said.
Despite repeated requests from Chamberlain’s family for the name of the officer who killed him, White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong only named Carelli as the shooter this morning, after his name appeared in an article written by Democracy Now!'s Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News. The White Plains police have refused to say whether Carelli has been disciplined or assigned to desk duty after the fatal shooting of Chamberlain. We get an update on the Chamberlain case from the victim's son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., and his two attorneys, Mayo Bartlett and Abdulwali Muhammad. We also speak with Gus Dimopoulos, a lawyer for the 2008 victims, Jereis Hatter and Salameh Hatter. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Juan, following up on last week’s Democracy Now! national broadcast exclusive, today you have a major revelation in your paper, the New York Daily News, about the shooting death of 68-year-old former Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. in White Plains, New York.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that’s right, Amy. It’s been a tightly kept secret, the identity of the White Plains officer who fatally shot Mr. Chamberlain. His name is Officer Anthony Carelli. In a shocking twist, the News has also learned that Carelli is due in court later this month in a federal police brutality case. Jereis Hatter and Salameh Hatter claim Carelli was the most brutal of the officers who beat and kicked them while they were handcuffed during a disorderly conduct arrest in 2008, calling them, quote, “rag heads.” Their parents are Jordanian immigrants. The brothers say Carelli beat Jereis Hatter with a police baton, causing head and eye injuries, while he was handcuffed to a poll in the police station. All charges against the brothers were later dismissed. They have now sued, alleging excessive force and federal civil rights violations.
Meanwhile, the mayor of White Plains has finally offered his condolences to the family of Kenneth Chamberlain, the 68-year-old veteran fatally shot by police in his own home. Chamberlain, an African-American former Marine, was killed after police responded to a false alert from his medical pendant.
AMY GOODMAN: The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door. They tasered him, then shot him dead. That was on November 19th, 2011. On Friday, more than four months later and after the Democracy Now! broadcast, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach issued a statement offering “condolences” to Chamberlain’s family. The move came one day after Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., publicly criticized Roach and other city officials for staying silent about the case for so long. Chamberlain’s killing is expected to go before a grand jury in the coming weeks.
In a letter to the Common Council of White Plains dated March 27th, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. wrote, quote, “Although the District Attorney’s office has stated that there will be a fair, honest and complete investigation surrounding the events that took place on the morning of the 19th [of November], it is extremely difficult for my family and I to put trust in a system that we feel has failed us already.”
Well, Democracy Now! reached out to multiple officials in White Plains, including all six members of the Common Council and the Office of Mayor Thomas Roach, but we did not receive a response to our interview requests. We also contacted the offices of White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong and Police Chief James Bradley, as well as Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. None returned our calls.
For more today, we are joined by Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., again, 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. We’re also joined by another of the family’s attorneys, Abdulwali Muhammad.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! For people who did not hear the broadcast last week, Ken, can you summarize what happened to your father and then respond to what you have now heard in Juan Gonzalez’s exposé of who the police officer was who shot your father dead?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Well, a quick summary. My father accidentally triggered his life alert pendant one morning. The police, White Plains police, responded to the home, supposedly to do a medical check to see if he was OK. He told them he was fine, yet they insisted that he open the door. When my father said that he knows his rights and he doesn’t have to open the door, they began to bang on the door for over an hour, ultimately breaking the door down and shooting him and killing him.
AMY GOODMAN: And just to be clear, LifeAid, the medical alert company, when they heard the alarm that goes off from his pendant—maybe he rolled over in bed—around 5:00 in the morning, they were the ones who called the police.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Correct. There’s a two-way box that sits in the house, and once it’s triggered, someone from their central station will come over the box and ask and say, “Mr. Chamberlain, are you OK? You triggered your alarm.” If they don’t get a response, they are going to assume that there is a medical emergency and then automatically call for medical assistance. And that’s what happened.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, police have insisted that the use of force was warranted, and they said that your father, Kenneth Chamberlain, was emotionally disturbed and had pulled a knife out on the officers. This is David Chong, public safety commissioner in White Plains, back then.
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.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was public safety commissioner of White Plains, David Chong, talking about what had happened. And in the Daily News, we did interview some of residents who said that police had been there before because of—apparently, your father at different times had been yelling out previously, so the police claim that they had had a previous history of going to this house. Now that, of course, doesn’t mean that that excuses any way the actions they took. In fact, if they did feel that he had some kind of emotional problems, that that would have required them to take—to use extra care in how they were able to deal with him.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Mm-hmm. Well, they did say in the beginning, as they were putting their spin on it, that “he is known to us,” but they would never say how my father was known. So, that could mean anything. You could see someone in the streets several times and be—and now they are known to you. But it never was specific on how they actually knew my father. So, and again, as you just said, because he’s known, that isn’t a justification for them to bust his door down and then, allegedly, well, taser him, which we did see on the audio—I mean, on the video, excuse me.
AMY GOODMAN: Because there’s a video on the taser gun.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes. So we did see that. But anything after that, we didn’t see.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is very interesting. Mayo Bartlett, as we spoke yesterday, you talked about—so there’s two records of this. There’s the audio recording, because of the box in your father’s apartment.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: LifeAid records everything in the room once they’re alerted by a medical pendant, and they call the police, because he’s not responding, and they say, “This is not a criminal case; this is a medical emergency. Please get over there.” Mayo Bartlett, you talked about the taser video. What did—were you able to see in the video once they took the doors off the hinges? And explain even how that happened.
MAYO BARTLETT: Well, the police arrived. They immediately—first, they properly asked him, Mr. Chamberlain, whether he was all right. He said, “I’m fine.” And at that point, he seemed to be very rational and calm. And they asked him to open the door. He said, “I don’t want to open the door. I didn’t call you. But I’m fine. Everything’s OK.” And the police refused to leave at that point. They began banging on the door. And it’s a steel door, so you can hear a very loud sound. The first time we heard the banging, it startles you. It almost makes you wonder whether shots are being fired at that point. And this is at 5:00 in the morning, and it’s a 68-year-old man, who didn’t call them and wasn’t expecting them to be there, because this—
AMY GOODMAN: But who has a heart condition.
MAYO BARTLETT: And who has a heart condition. And at that point, the taser video actually shows them outside. They use a device to actually pry that door off of its hinges. First they break a lock, and the doors open what appears to be five or six inches, so it’s cracked open. And by the time they finally are able to take that door off its hinges, after about an hour of continuous effort to do so, the door is taken off.
You see, through the—basically, the vantage point of the taser, Mr. Chamberlain with no shirt on, with boxer shorts on, with both arms at his side, standing straight up. He doesn’t say anything. He is not advancing toward the officers. And the officers don’t say anything to him. They don’t give him an opportunity to do anything. They don’t tell him or ask him to put his hands up on the wall or to put his hands behind his head. They don’t ask him to do anything. They immediately charge that taser, and you can see it light up, and then they discharge it in his direction. And that has to be outside of the use of protocol or the protocol for the use of force, which generally is a use of force escalation.
AMY GOODMAN: But then you hear something in—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, but not only that, but there’s the issue of why—if you know that you’re going to see someone who has a heart condition, why would you fire a taser at them?
MAYO BARTLETT: I would definitely wonder why you would do that. I would think that there’s certainly less deadly uses of force. But I think, at that point, when he’s standing there with his arms at his side and the boxer shorts and no shirt on, 68-year-old man, there’s no need for use of force at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Then talk about what you hear on the taser video.
MAYO BARTLETT: Well, on that taser—well, you can see on the video, you see them, and you see Mr. Chamberlain standing what appears to be possibly eight, maybe even 10, feet away from them. And you can hear them—someone says, “Cut it. Cut it off.” And at that point, we believe that that means that they’re aware that they are recording their actions. And at that point, the video and audio feed from the taser end.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, they think they’re cutting off the recording of their actions, but in fact LifeAid has that box in there, and they are recording absolutely everything that is going on.
MAYO BARTLETT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: This goes to the issue of what you hear next. And Ken Chamberlain Jr., again, if you could recount this—and this goes on before and after, when they’re pulling—this is even before they’ve taken the door off its hinges—what your father is saying to them?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: You hear a number of things that my father is saying in the audio. One of the things you hear is he’s telling the officers, repeatedly, “I’m OK. I didn’t call you. Why are you doing this to me? Please leave me alone.” The officers are telling him pretty much no, that they want to get inside. He’s saying, “I’m a 68-year-old man with a heart condition. I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to come in here, and you’re going to kill me.” You hear at one point one of the officers say, “Why would you think that? We’re not going to do that.” But he said, “Yes, you are. You have your guns out. Why do you have your guns out? Oh, you have a shield.” Now, I’m thinking to myself—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, the shield?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: A ballistic shield.
AMY GOODMAN: A full-body ballistic shield.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: A full-body shield, yes. So, you hear that. And I’ll even go so far as to say that you even hear on there my father is referring to a black police officer that’s there, too, and he says, “Black officer, why are you letting them do this to me?” So these are some of the things that you hear in the audio. And again, you hear him give his sworn testimony on the audio.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: He says, “My name is Kenneth Chamberlain, and this is my sworn testimony. White Plains police officers are going to come in here and kill me.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now—and, of course, we discussed, as well, that the use of a racial epithet at the time also is caught on tape.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes, yes. When he asked them why are they doing this, “Please don’t do this to me. Why are you doing this?” one of the officers say, “I don’t give a F,” and then use the N-word and says, “Open the door.” So, I was very clear in the beginning, when all of this happened, that I wasn’t trying to turn this into any type of racially motivated killing, until we heard the audio. Then, and only then, did I bring that up and say, OK, because, I mean, any logical mind, if you hear that, and then you say, well, what was the outcome? He was shot twice.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, interestingly, you know, as I yesterday was working on this story trying to get as much information as I could, the law enforcement people, as we have discussed, have been totally tight-lipped. But there was an acknowledgment by some of them that those—that statement was a problem that they saw early on, but that they are now saying that they believe that, yes, that was uttered, and—but it was not uttered by any of the officers who directly went into the—someone else in the employ of the White Plains Police Department said that outside, but was not part of the group that went in. Now, obviously, that’s what they’re claiming. We don’t know what the facts will show eventually. But it was clear that they had to know immediately, once they—and they did hear that tape early on—that they had a problem here with the officers that were going in there that they were going to have to deal with.
AMY GOODMAN: They knew that was a problem, but, Mayo Bartlett, when you saw the transcript of what was said on this LifeAid recording, did you see this racial epithet?
MAYO BARTLETT: What’s troubling is, no, when we saw the transcripts of the recording, that racial epithet was not there. And it’s additionally troubling to me that White Plains members of law enforcement are aware that they have an officer who uses this type of language with respect to the citizens of White Plains. And if you were to be employed in any other capacity, whether it was in the entertainment field or anywhere else, and you use a remark like that, and you use disparaging comments like that, you’d lose your job. You are not out there still working with individuals. And if you’re in the entertainment industry, people don’t rely on you for their safety. We’re talking about individuals who are employed by the public, that the public relies on to provide safety and to assist them in their time of need. And if that person has that type of bias in his or her heart, that individual has no place working for the city of White Plains.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to the latest revelation—we’re going to break for a moment, and then the piece that is in today’s New York Daily News, Juan Gonzalez, the lead writer, exposing exactly who this police officer is who shot your father, Kenneth Chamberlain, dead. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We continue with this conversation, “Black in White Plains: The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.,” in a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, your exposé in today’s New York Daily News, I am going to hold it up. It’s not the baseball picture at the top; it’s what’s underneath. And it says, “Named! Exclusive: NEWS IDs cop who shot retired Marine.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Well, you know, I—as a longtime reporter, I know that in a small town word gets out, especially in a situation like this, of who was involved, and it was only a matter of being able to find out, even though officials have said nothing about who was involved, which is very rare in a case like this this that the officers are not named. And we started hearing the name of a particular officer, but it took until late yesterday, almost until the evening, 'til we were actually able to get confirmation that the officer who was directly involved in the shooting was an officer by the name of Anthony Carelli, who joined the White Plains police force in 2004 at the age of 21, and who, amazingly, is about to go into a trial, a federal civil rights trial, by two brothers who were arrested by Carelli and a group of officers back in 2008 on Memorial Day weekend in downtown White Plains in a strip where there's a lot of bars and restaurants and large crowds tend to gather on weekends, and the two brothers were arrested for disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped.
But it turns out that they are alleging in their lawsuit, a $10 million lawsuit against the police department of White Plains, that Carelli was the lead officer who brought them into the precinct and cuffed them to a long bar in the booking room and then beat one of the brothers, Jereis Hatter, and repeatedly beat him. And interestingly, in a deposition that we got a hold of in the case, Carelli claimed that—because he had to explain some of the injuries that Hatter clearly had—that on the way to the precinct, in the police car, Hatter repeatedly was banging his head, from the back seat of the patrol car, was banging his head against the plastic partition in the police vehicle. And so, when questioned, “Well, what did you do?” Carelli said, “Well, I told him to stop. But he wouldn’t listen, and he kept banging his head over and over again against the plastic shield in the police car.” And because, obviously, the young man went into the precinct with no injuries and came out—and we have a picture of him in the newspaper with a battered face. And so, they are now suing, claiming civil rights violations and excessive force by the police department.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, the yelling of the racial epithet.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, and that he—and that while they were being beaten, Carelli was calling them “rag heads” inside the precinct. And one brother says that—we were able to reach him late at night. He said that Carelli should not be on the force, that he beat him in the head, he kicked him in the groin. And he just wants justice.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is while he was handcuffed to a pole in the police station.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Wouldn’t they have video of what happened inside a police station?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, interestingly, the police department says they have no surveillance—they had no video inside. This is the police headquarters; we’re not talking about a small precinct. This is the police headquarters. They have—there is no video of anything that happened, according to the police department.
AMY GOODMAN: And interestingly, as you report in the New York Daily News, a man who said he was Carelli’s brother answered the door at Carelli’s house in Harrison, Westchester County, and told the New York Daily News, “So I assume his name leaked out today. Lovely.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right. And subsequent to that, the Harrison police arrived at the house and ordered our Daily News reporters away from the house and are now stationed outside the policeman’s house to, I guess, shield, protect him from the cameras.
AMY GOODMAN: In a 2010 deposition, you report, Carelli said he made about 250 to 300 arrests as a police officer.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, he was part, at that time, in 2008, of apparently a street unit in the White Plains Police Department that specializes in the local downtown bars and, interestingly, in the public housing projects. And his partner, Julio Orellana, in his deposition says that “We were doing all these quality-of-life arrests in places like downtown and in the projects,” specifically naming Winbrook, the public housing development that your father lived in, Kenneth.
AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to hearing this?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Well, I’m glad that the name is out, and I definitely want to thank you, Mr. Gonzalez, for researching that and getting that out there so the public knows who this person is, because, as you just stated, my father’s incident is not the first incident. So, it’s almost like a snowball effect. He was beating people, and now he ultimately killed someone. So when I hear that, it just goes back to the visual of the last time I actually really saw my father, other than the funeral, was at the hospital, with his eyes wide open, his tongue hanging out his mouth, and two bullet holes in his chest. And I’m staring at my father, wondering, “What happened? How did this happen?”
And I’ve often heard in White Plains that there was a unit that would go around in White Plains, and people used to say, “If you’re hanging out on the weekends in White Plains, be careful.” And I asked them, “Why?” They said, “There is a unit out here that will get you, and that they will—they’ll beat you up.” And I said, “Really?” And they said, “Yes.” And then, for you to reveal this information, it just brings me back to that conversation that I had with someone in the street.
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined right now by the lawyer for the two brothers who have sued the police officer, Anthony Carelli, and other police officers for their beating, their beating and arrest in 2008. His name is Gus Dimopoulos. He’s quoted in Juan’s piece in the New York Daily News.
Mr. Dimopoulos, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain the case that your clients have against this police officer, who has now been named as the shooter of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.
GUS DIMOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone.
My clients were celebrating a birthday party of one of their friends at the Black Bear Saloon in 2008. When they basically exited the Black Bear Saloon after they had, you know, been celebrating the birthday, they were confronted by various members of the police department. And essentially, they alleged that my clients were being disorderly and causing a ruckus on the street and screaming and fighting. Ultimately, both brothers, Jerry and Sal, were arrested on the street in White Plains and taken into police custody. They were charged with disorderly conduct. They essentially allege that while they were on the street, they were causing such a scene, screaming, yelling, resisting arrest, and doing all sorts of other things. They—we allege that the police officers, while in the custody of the White Plains Police Department back at the station, you know, severely beat Jerry while being restrained by handcuffs. They hit him in the face with a nightstick, they kicked, they punched him, and then essentially charged him with a crime. And then, ultimately, when it went to trial, they were unable to prove their case. You know, the judge in the criminal case dismissed the charges for disorderly conduct, basically said the cops’ story didn’t make any sense, and the charges were dismissed.
Ultimately, in the case we have pending for excessive force, they’ve made similar denials: nobody hit him. Nobody can explain how he got all the bruises and the black eyes. The only story that that was able to get—that we’re able to glean from the litigation is that from Carelli himself, who basically spent the most time with Jerry when he was arrested, and he tried to allege that he was self-inflicting his wounds by hitting his face against the police divider between the front and back of the car. You know, no other police officer corroborated Carelli’s testimony on this front.
And also, some of the bouncers from the bar—you know, Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains is a busy place, especially on a weekend night. And they called a bunch of witnesses to give deposition testimony about the event, and all of them said that he really wasn’t acting the way that the police alleged that he was acting. He was—you know, he was perfectly cooperative when he was arrested. He didn’t try to get out of the custody. He didn’t do anything.
So, you know, our allegations in the complaint is they just—they essentially profiled him. You know, he is of Arab-American descent. They arrested him and then, you know, beat him down in the police office when he was defenseless and in their custody. So, you know, we’re basically making our claims under civil rights law that, you know, Jerry’s injuries, both physical and emotional, are reprehensible. And, you know, it’s a horrible event. It’s a horrible event.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you also allege that Carelli made anti-Arab remarks while they were in custody.
GUS DIMOPOULOS: Jerry had—did testify that he did make several anti-Arab racial slurs towards Jerry and his brother, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: What did he call them?
GUS DIMOPOULOS: I don’t have the deposition testimony in front of me, but I know that, from memory, that he was called a—I’m trying to remember the exact word, but—
AMY GOODMAN: You have it from the deposition.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, I think it was “rag head.”
GUS DIMOPOULOS: “Rag head.” That — “rag head,” and I think there were others in the deposition testimony. Without it in front of me, I’m not confident—but I do remember him saying, absolutely, they called him a “rag head.”
AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Dimopoulos, when you heard the story of Kenneth Chamberlain and then the fact that Anthony Carelli, the police officer who you charge in this case of having hurled the racial epithet, beat your client, that he is the shooter in the Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., case, your response?
GUS DIMOPOULOS: Well, first of all, obviously, to the Chamberlain family and obviously his son, as well, you know, it’s a horrible event, and I’m sorry that they have to go through that. You know, I heard Mr. Chamberlain’s son saying before the reputation of the White Plains Police Department, and I’ve heard the same thing. It’s a very charged police force. They’re—you know, being in the line of work that I am, obviously, I hear a lot about it. I’ve been consulted on, you know, dozens of excessive force cases. Not all of them are clear. Some of them are not. But it seems to me that the Chamberlain case—I’ve been following it somewhat—you know, it’s a horrible, horrible tragedy. We did our own investigation to see if we could determine whether or not various police officers that we named in our complaint were involved. Of course, from the beginning, you know, as the [inaudible] say, it’s a very hush-hush case. No one is willing to talk to anybody. Nobody’s willing to give any information. But, you know, I was unable to confirm any involvement, but obviously [inaudible] investigation. But it’s a horrible event. If those facts are true, it’s a shame and a tragedy. And really, my heart goes out to the family.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like ask Abdulwali Muhammad, another one of the lawyers of the family, your reaction when you hear about this and about this officer now? Because the trial in this other case is going to begin on April 23rd in federal court in White Plains.
ABDULWALI MUHAMMAD: The same story that was spun regarding this incident with these two gentlemen who were abused by the police smacks—or, is similar to the one that was given by the commissioner, police commissioner, regarding Mr. Chamberlain’s father, that he was a hatchet-wielding mentally disturbed person, and that, of course, would have justified police action against him. And that story didn’t say anything about the fact that he was in his home or that the medical alert had gone off. And but for the fact that we have the tapes, we would not be able to present the story that we’ve had to the public and make our demands that the tapes be released, that the officer’s name be released, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, you come from a very illustrious family, the son-in-law of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis—
ABDULWALI MUHAMMAD: You busted me.
AMY GOODMAN: —who are famous actors, of course, but also civil rights leaders in the community, Ossie Davis was, Ruby Dee is. You live in the White Plains area in Westchester County. Does this surprise you that this took place, Abdulwali Muhammad?
ABDULWALI MUHAMMAD: Well, as Malcolm X so appropriately said, as long as you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re South. That’s how I look at all of these incidents. Whether or not it happens in Florida or it happens California, like you mentioned earlier in the show with the news about the sentencing of the police officers in New Orleans, you know, this is racism, it’s classism. I doubt that this type of behavior would have taken place with the police department if it was in Scarsdale or some other wealthy community. They wouldn’t have busted down the door. If the owners of the home told the police to go away, they would have wagged their tails and gone away.
AMY GOODMAN: This is four months ago that this took place. April 10th, the Trayvon Martin grand jury is expected to begin hearing testimony. April 11th now—after you left Democracy Now! last Thursday, you went over to the DA’s office, the Westchester County DA’s office. Ken Chamberlain, what did they assure you there?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Well, there really was no real assurance of anything other than the fact that she did say that she was going to present all of the evidence to the grand jury.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Janet DiFiore.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Janet DiFiore, correct. So, I’m hoping that she does do that. And I did say to her, when they were giving us a date around April 11th, I said, “Well, my father’s birthday is April 12th. He would have been 69 years old.” I said, “So, give him one last birthday present and come back with a criminal indictment on these officers.” So, hopefully she’ll do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re talking about officers.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes. Even though Mr. Carelli has been named the shooter, there were other officers that were there that could have stopped that from happening. So, just like in any other case, if you and I did something, or I did something and you was with me, you acted in concert. You did nothing to stop him, so you should be charged, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s be clear here. On November 19th, your father, a pendant goes off, medical alert. The company doesn’t—isn’t able to hear him in the apartment, called the police, says it’s a medical emergency, not a criminal case. The police come. He’s up now. He says to them, “I’m fine.” Let’s go to what was happening in the hallway, because there is actually another video, and that is the public housing video in the hallway. Your cousin, your dad’s niece, Tonyia, lived upstairs.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: She hears noise. She comes running down the stairs. And she also has a cell phone, is that right?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So tell us what happened, from her vantage point, another way of alerting the police.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: It’s my understanding, after speaking to my cousin, she received a call from her mother, who said, “Go down” —
AMY GOODMAN: Your dad’s sister.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes. Told her, “Go downstairs and check on your uncle. Something’s going on down there.” And she went downstairs with her cell phone. And she told the police officers down there, “I’m his niece.” It didn’t matter. They waved her back and continued to do whatever it is that they were doing.
AMY GOODMAN: On the audio recording of the LifeAid company that’s recording everything inside, you hear the LifeAid people saying to the police, “This order is canceled. We have made contact with Mr. Chamberlain. He’s OK.”
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Mayo Bartlett, what was the response on the audio—what was the response of the police that you hear on the tape?
MAYO BARTLETT: It’s astonishing. I mean, you hear the people who called you to give assistance say, “We are canceling our request for assistance.” The police ignore that. They say it’s too late for that. The same company says that “We have Mr. Chamberlain’s son, who lives only five minutes away.”
AMY GOODMAN: That’s you, Kenneth.
MAYO BARTLETT: “Do you mind if we contact his son, so you can speak to him? Maybe he can help you.” They say, “We don’t need any mediators.” His sister, Mr. Chamberlain’s sister, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.’s aunt, was on the phone, and they were asking whether she could speak with her brother. The police said no. And at one point, when Tonyia Greenhill is present, what occurs is—
AMY GOODMAN: This is your cousin.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Yes.
MAYO BARTLETT: Yes. She’s downstairs, and she overhears the police asking Mr. Chamberlain, “Do you have any family?” She goes over to give assistance. She says, “I’m his niece.” They ignore that. So they’ve had every opportunity to take advantage of people who could have been of assistance. And again, it’s not a situation where they were investigating a crime and they’re putting a civilian into harm’s way. They’re there to give assistance. And in particular, if you’re dealing with an elderly individual, you don’t know whether that person even has dementia or whether they’re actually able to give you all of their medical history. If you have a family member that’s present, you should take full advantage of the fact that that individual is there.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And I think that the—that’s a critical point, in discussions with you, not only that they seem to have made up their minds that they were going to just go in there, but also that even when they did make up their minds, there was someone in full body gear that could have led the way, been the first person in there. But they claim—but that person did not go in, and instead it was these officers who went in there and who then claim that Mr. Chamberlain came at them with a knife, and they had no recourse but to shoot.
MAYO BARTLETT: Absolutely. And in the initial report by the police department, they suggest—first of all, they neglect to mention that they were there for a medical emergency, so it leads the public to believe that they’re there investigating a crime. They don’t really focus on the fact that it’s all within Mr. Chamberlain’s home. And they give the suggestion that they are retreating from Mr. Chamberlain, when in fact everything that we can see shows us that that is not accurate. And the minute that that door is taken off of the hinges, you see the taser light up. Mr. Chamberlain is in his home, not advancing toward anyone, and then they make the decision to cut the video and the audio feed from that taser and suggest to us that somehow, after this 68-year-old man who has a heart condition is shot with a taser and then with four beanbag shotguns, discharged beanbags from a shotgun, that he is able to still grab a knife and/or a hatchet and charge at them and cause perhaps a dozen able-bodied individuals who work for the Department of Public Safety to retreat. And again, they had a full-body ballistic shield with them, which is designed to prevent them from being shot. It’s designed to withstand firearms discharge.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you have five unanswered questions in the New York Daily News, which I think are really important.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, well, we wrote these in response to the fact that no one really is saying—making any official statements.
AMY GOODMAN: And we have called all the authorities to ask them to be on Democracy Now!
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the questions are: Why has the White Plains Police Department refused for months to release the names of the officers involved? Have any of the cops been stripped of their guns or placed on modified assignment? Will authorities release the audio and videotapes that documented the clash between Chamberlain and police? Will authorities make public the official incident report? And who was the ranking officer on the scene who ordered Chamberlain, a man with a heart condition, to be tasered?
MAYO BARTLETT: Can I very briefly—I think that one thing that happens is, when we have these incidents, we tend to ask for justice for the individuals. And I commend and I have so much respect for the Chamberlain family, because in addition to seeking justice for their father, they’re seeking justice for the entire community, and that means anyone who lives in White Plains, anyone who may come into White Plains, even if you don’t live there, because this is justice for the entire community.
We have Mr. Carelli, who has—about to go to trial on a federal police brutality case, where he is alleged to have used racial slurs and beaten people who are confined in handcuffs, and he’s out there. He’s one of the people who responds to Mr. Chamberlain. And that’s troubling to me. And we have a city that has maintained a tremendous amount of secrecy to protect him, so that he can continue to be out there. So now it begs the question, that you have to wonder who are your individuals policing your town. Are these people under federal investigation? Are these individuals who have beaten other people in your community? We don’t have any idea. And to me, that is frightening. And that’s—it’s a frightening prospect that a government would go to such lengths to protect individuals like this. If this was to happen in Syria, we would be calling for military action, possibly. So, when it’s happening here, we need to be vigilant, and we need to call for transparency. But these individuals shouldn’t be out there with weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: Abdulwali Muhammad?
ABDULWALI MUHAMMAD: There is one point on the audio where the entire color or nature of the dialogue changes. Initially, there is a back-and-forth: “Let us in. Let us in.” “No, I don’t want you to come in.” And they begin the process of trying to go through Mr. Chamberlain’s door. But it’s relatively, I would say—under the law, they may have been acting, even though they were acting—they were doing something which was not legal under the law, under the Fourth Amendment. The police officers were maybe conducting themselves properly, to a certain degree. I don’t know. But there was a certain part of that where the dialogue changed, and it got very ugly. It got very ugly. And it seems as if the authority was trying to be superimposed not from the place of the law, but from a personal ego. There was ego in there that has no place in a professional conduct.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m not sure if Gus Dimopoulos is still on the phone, but—
GUS DIMOPOULOS: I’m still on the line, and I actually wanted to make a point on that topic. You know, one of the things—
AMY GOODMAN: This is the attorney for the two brothers, Jereis and Salameh Hatter, who have sued, in a multimillion-dollar suit, the police officer who also shot Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Gus Dimopoulos?
GUS DIMOPOULOS: One of the things we tried very hard to understand during the course of discovery in our case was basically the role of White Plains’s internal investigation into the allegations and into the events. And, you know, we were surprised to find out that basically the—there is an officer in White Plains who has his office amongst all the other offices of White Plains who, you know, quote-unquote, is the “internal affairs investigator.” You know, I think he’s a lieutenant. His name is Fitzmaurice. Basically, his only action in connection with the allegations of the Hatter brothers was he got a written statement from each of the officers in the—in the arrest. So, he had a, you know, a one- or a two-paragraph little statement from each of the officers. If they sign it, they put in the file.
We questioned not only the officers involved, but we questioned the highest-ranking official in the city of White Plains Police Department. We were unable to get the acting chief, because he was in transition at the time, having been—you know, he’s basically new. But there really was no investigation that happened in connection to my clients’ allegations. It was—you know, the day after the event, all the officers testified that Lieutenant Fitzmaurice basically said, “Write down what happened.” And there was a signed statement. It got tucked in the file. They never spoke to anybody else. They never questioned any of the witnesses on the scene or anything like that. There was no—no substantive investigation.
And not only that, but there’s no—there is no separation between White Plains’s—what’s commonly referred to as, you know, internal affairs, someone who investigates the conduct of the police department—there’s no separation between that officer and the officers who are charged in these complaints. And we found that odd. And we also found it odd that we were, through various channels, demanding depositions and the records with respect to this investigation, but there were none, and they wouldn’t let us talk to anyone. So, I think that that goes to the points that were earlier made that it really is shrouded in secrecy, what happens with these police officers.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Gus, Gus Dimopoulos, when we talked yesterday, you also were surprised that there was no camera inside the booking area in the White Plains Police Department, when you think police departments—
GUS DIMOPOULOS: Oh, I know, Juan. I know—I know there’s a camera.
JUAN GONZALEZ: —use surveillance cameras for so many other things.
GUS DIMOPOULOS: I apologize. I know there’s a camera. I saw it myself. But the allegation from White Plains is that the camera either wasn’t operational on that night or the system was being backed up. I could never get a clear—there are cameras inside the booking headquarters. But they didn’t have any tape of the incident. Let’s put it that way.
AMY GOODMAN: As you listen to this, Mayo Bartlett, you’re not only one of the family attorneys, along with Abdulwali Muhammad and Randolph McLaughlin, you are a former prosecutor. You are from inside this very office that we’re talking about, well, the Westchester DA’s office. Your thoughts, from being an insider, now being outside of that?
MAYO BARTLETT: Well, generally, whenever there is video that his beneficial to law enforcement, that video exists, it’s there, you have great quality, and you can use it. And any time that the video is questionable, you don’t have video. So we can ask officers—we routinely ask them when we’re going to trial, “Did you arrive at the location in a marked vehicle or an unmarked vehicle?” And when they say, “A marked vehicle,” well, generally, today we know that that vehicle is going to have video. “Did you put your siren on when you were on your way there?” “Yes.” “Was there any video?” “Oh, I’m not sure.” “Which vehicle were you in?” We know crystal clear, because we’ve heard, in some occasions, the same officer testify that the vehicle does have a camera on one trial, but in another it does not.
AMY GOODMAN: And why haven’t these audiotapes—the audiotape of LifeAid, which you hear the whole thing, racial slurs and all, the taser video, the public housing hallway video—been released? I mean, in the case of Trayvon Martin, those 911 tapes were released immediately.
MAYO BARTLETT: I think they absolutely should have been released. I think it’s solely in the discretion of the prosecution and the police department. And given the information that we’ve learned today, it seems clear to me that there is a vested interest in not releasing it, just as there was in not releasing the identity of Mr. Carelli, because Mr. Carelli is going to trial within the next few weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: Just as there was in not mentioning the racial slur on the transcript of the audiotape.
MAYO BARTLETT: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Abdulwali Muhammad?
ABDULWALI MUHAMMAD: And the difference being, in the Martin case, that Zimmerman is not the police department.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, we’re faced now with April 11th for the grand jury supposedly beginning, possibly, and April 23rd for the U.S. District Court trial of Officer Carelli.
AMY GOODMAN: Ken Chamberlain, your father was not only a former Marine, he was also a corrections guard? Officer?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Corrections officer, yes, from the Westchester County Department of Corrections.
AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, your final thoughts?
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Well, I guess my question has been answered as far as what was all the secrecy around the name of the shooter, and now we know. And I had a feeling about that all along. I said, “Something’s not right. I’m surprised they haven’t released the name. Something is wrong with this officer.” And now we know that he has other charges pending right now. So it’s very damaging, not only to him, but to the department on a whole, because people are going to start to look at White Plains Police Department and say, “What type of officers do you have in there?” But at the same time, I know it’s not the whole police department. So we just want to bring into focus those that lack the integrity in safeguarding the people of the community.
AMY GOODMAN: Ken Chamberlain Jr., again, our condolences on the death of your father, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN JR.: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: And thank you very much to Mayo Bartlett and Abdulwali Muhammad, your attorneys, and to attorney Gus Dimopoulos, representing Jereis and Salameh Hatter. That does it for our broadcast. We reached out to the police, to the office of Mayor Thomas Roach, as well as to the Common Council of White Plains, Westchester County. And we hope that they will join us on the show in later broadcasts.