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As Grand Jury Clears White Plains Police in Kenneth Chamberlain’s Death, New Tape Shows Fatal Raid

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The Westchester District Attorney says no police officers will be charged in the fatal shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. after a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved. Chamberlain, a 68-year-old African American and former Marine, was shot dead in his own home in White Plains, New York, after he mistakenly set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant. We air newly released audio and video of the shooting, as well from his sister’s call to police as she tried to defuse the situation. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryMay 04, 2012Kenneth Chamberlain’s Family Seeks Lawsuit, Federal Probe as Grand Jury Rejects Charging Officers
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with the latest on the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the 68-year-old African-American veteran who was shot dead inside his own home by a White Plains New York police officer in November. On Thursday, the Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved.

JANET DIFIORE: The death of Mr. Chamberlain inside his apartment and during the encounter with White Plains police on November 19th was a tragedy on many, many levels. A grand jury heard all the evidence on the use of physical force and deadly physical force by the police in this encounter. The grand jury also heard the evidence of the threatened use of deadly physical force by Mr. Chamberlain during the encounter. After due deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The police were called to Kenneth Chamberlain’s apartment after he accidentally set off his LifeAid medical alert device. After Chamberlain refused to let officers into the apartment, police broke down the door and then shot him with a taser, then with bean bags fired from a shotgun, and finally a white police officer named Anthony Carelli shot him dead. Police claim Chamberlain tried to attack them with a knife.

Randolph McLaughlin, an attorney for the Chamberlain family, said they would now seek a federal probe into the shooting.

RANDOLPH McLAUGHLIN: We’re moving beyond Westchester County now. We’re going to put this case in the hands of the United States attorney general. We’re good to be drafting a letter for release tomorrow morning to Eric Holder and to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, and calling for a full investigation not only in this case, which we think was a civil rights violation, given what happened here, but given what we’ve learned about the other cases pending and threatened in this county involving White Plains police officers, we’re going to ask the U.S. attorney and the attorney general to use their powers under federal law to conduct a full investigation of this department. And we believe, when they do that, they will find civil rights violations.

AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll be joined by Mayo Bartlett, the attorney for the Chamberlain family. But first we turn to a remarkable series of audio and video recordings from the morning of Kenneth Chamberlain’s death. Much of the audio was recorded by Chamberlain’s LifeAid medical alert device. The video was recorded from the police taser gun used to shoot the 68-year-old man before he was shot dead. We begin with the initial call that prompted the police response.

OFFICER CIANCI: White Plains Police Officer Cianci.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Good morning. This is LifeAid reporting a medical alert.


LIFEAID OPERATOR: One thirty-five—


LIFEAID OPERATOR: South Lexington Avenue.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. Apartment number?

LIFEAID OPERATOR: One-B, like “boy.”

OFFICER CIANCI: One-B, OK. Medical alert?


OFFICER CIANCI: OK. What’s the name of the resident?

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Last name is Chamberlain, first name Kenneth.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. Did you get a response from him at all or no?

LIFEAID OPERATOR: No, nothing at all from him.

AMY GOODMAN: After the White Plains police arrived at Ken Chamberlain’s apartment, Chamberlain told an operator from LifeAid that he was not sick and did not need assistance.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: This is your help center for LifeAid, Mr. Chamberlain. Do you need help?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Yes, this is an emergency! I have the White Plains Police Department banging on my door, and I did not call them, and I am not sick!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Everything’s all right, sir?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: No, it’s not all right! I need help! The White Plains Police Department are banging on my door!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain, go to your door and answer it.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: [inaudible] Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Open your door for the police, Mr. Chamberlain.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I didn’t call the police. I did not call the police!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: That’s OK. Go to your door and let them know you’re all right.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I stay right there. They hear me. They say they want to talk to me.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK, go and talk to them, sir. I’ll stay on the line with you.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I have no reason to talk to them.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain? Mr. Chamberlain?


LIFEAID OPERATOR: You pressed your medical button right now. You don’t need anything, let the police know you’re OK.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I’m OK! The police department is knocking on my door, and I—

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Yes, I understand. Go to the door and tell them you’re all right.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I will not open my door.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Sir, go to the door and tell them you’re OK.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I will not open my door.

AMY GOODMAN: After Kenneth Chamberlain told LifeAid he was OK, but afraid of the police at the door, the LifeAid operator attempted to cancel the call for police assistance.

OFFICER CIANCI: White Plains police emergency.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Good morning, sir. I’m attempting to cancel that dispatch for Kenneth Chamberlain at 135 South Lexington.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. You know, we have—we have units on scene right now.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Yeah, he’s—we’re on the line with him on a two-way communication, and he’s saying he’s not going to open the door and is scared he’s going to bust his door down.

OFFICER CIANCI: Right. They’re going to make entry anyway.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK, so, hold on. Give him a chance to come to the door to open it, because he’s OK to open it.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK. I mean, they have a key they can open it with anyway, so…

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Oh, they have a key?

OFFICER CIANCI: Yeah, they’re not going to break it down.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Oh, because they’re banging on it. We can hear on the line.

OFFICER CIANCI: What’s that?

LIFEAID OPERATOR: They’re banging on it. We can hear on the line. They’re—

OFFICER CIANCI: Yeah, yeah. We have units going over there right now. They get in.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Oh, OK. And your name and number?




AMY GOODMAN: Kenneth Chamberlain went on to tell the LifeAid operator that the police had drawn their guns and were attempting to break down his door. Listen closely.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Officers, this is LifeAid. Are you inside Mr. Chamberlain’s home?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They’re breaking in my door! They’re breaking in my door!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain, I heard you say they’re breaking in your door. Are you OK?


LIFEAID OPERATOR: Mr. Chamberlain, are you OK?


LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. You pressed your medical button. That’s why the officers are there. Can you go to the door and speak to them?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I [inaudible] the door. They’ve got their guns out! They have their guns out!

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. Do you have weapon, Mr. Chamberlain?

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I [inaudible] weapons. I am just protecting myself.

LIFEAID OPERATOR: OK. They’re not there to hurt you. I’m here on the line.

POLICE OFFICER: Mr. Chamberlain, we’re not here to help—hurt you. We’re here to give you a hand, help you out.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I’m OK! I told you I was OK! [inaudible] I’m OK! I’m fine! Leave me alone! I’m fine!

AMY GOODMAN: A video camera on the police taser gun recorded the next sequence. You can hear Kenneth Chamberlain say the police have stun guns and shotguns. He then predicted the police would probably kill him. Again, listen closely.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They have stun guns and shotguns! [inaudible]

POLICE OFFICER: Mr. Chamberlain! Mr. Chamberlain!

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They’ve come to kill me with that, because I have a bad heart.

POLICE OFFICER: It doesn’t have to happen that way. [inaudible] just have to open the door.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Get out! I didn’t call you! I did not call you. Why are you here? Why are you here?

POLICE OFFICER: Life alert called us.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Why are you here?

POLICE OFFICER: Life alert called us.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: They have their nine-millimeter Glocks at the ready. They’re getting ready to kill me or beat me up.

POLICE OFFICER: Open the door.


POLICE OFFICER: Let them check you out. And then we will leave.


POLICE OFFICER: Yeah, but I’m not a doctor.


POLICE OFFICER: No, nothing here.

KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Leave. I’m fine. Now leave. I’m fine.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: While the police were threatening to break down Kenneth Chamberlain’s door, Chamberlain’s sister called the police in an attempt to defuse the situation.

OFFICER CIANCI: White Plains police emergency.

CAROL MATTHEWS: Yes, good morning. My name is Carol Matthews. I’m—I understand that the police are down with my brother, Kenny Chamberlain.


CAROL MATTHEWS: And I’m—you know, I’m trying to get through to him. You know, he is on medication.

OFFICER CIANCI: He is on medication, right, yeah.

CAROL MATTHEWS: Yeah, he has the paper that he’s supposed to carry around with him.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK, no problem.

CAROL MATTHEWS: And, you know, he’s like really—he seems like he’s done snapped, you know what I mean?


CAROL MATTHEWS: I just don’t know what to do at this time.

OFFICER CIANCI: OK, well, it’s no problem.

CAROL MATTHEWS: The number that I have—

OFFICER CIANCI: Just, you know what? We’re going to handle it on our end.

CAROL MATTHEWS: Yeah, but I mean, I don’t—you know, they say he has a—someone said he has a knife or something?

OFFICER CIANCI: Who said that?

CAROL MATTHEWS: The people from the station, you know, from the alert station, life alert.

OFFICER CIANCI: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, though, we’re going to handle it. And then he can—

CAROL MATTHEWS: Yeah, but that’s—

OFFICER CIANCI: —certainly get in touch with you as soon as he can.

CAROL MATTHEWS: Because I don’t want them to shoot him, you know.

OFFICER CIANCI: No, it’s not going to come to that.

CAROL MATTHEWS: Well, they said that—my daughter is there also. She said that they—that they have their guns out. They’re trying to talk to him, you know, but that’s—

OFFICER CIANCI: Right, right. Well, you know what, ma’am? Listen, just stay in contact with your daughter. She knows more than I do. I’m inside right now. I don’t really have any of the information, so you just talk with her, and she’ll relay you any information that she gets. She’ll probably get it to you faster than I could.


OFFICER CIANCI: OK? Have a good evening. All right, bye-bye.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Soon after Kenneth Chamberlain’s sister was assured the police would not shoot her brother, that is just what happened. Police video shows the moment police broke down his door and shot him with a taser. TV viewers will see a few quick glimpses of Kenneth Chamberlain. The 68-year-old man was wearing boxer shorts and no shirt. This video was recorded by a camera on the police taser. Listen closely and you can hear the sound of the taser.


KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Shoot! Shoot me! No! Shoot me! Shoot me!

POLICE OFFICER: Need another cartridge?


AMY GOODMAN: You can actually see the electricity shooting Kenneth Chamberlain. The video cuts out at this point. Within minutes, Kenneth Chamberlain was shot dead by the police.

Kenneth Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., we’re hoping will join us from Washington, D.C. We’ll also be joined by the family’s lawyer, Mayo Bartlett. But we’re going to break right now. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. You can go to our website to see and listen to the video and the audiotapes throughout the day. Back in a minute.

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Kenneth Chamberlain’s Family Seeks Lawsuit, Federal Probe as Grand Jury Rejects Charging Officers

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