We turn now to the latest in the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran who was shot dead by police inside his own home in White Plains, New York. Steve Hart, the White Plains police officer accused of calling Chamberlain the "N-word" shortly before Chamberlain was shot dead, has been suspended without pay. Earlier this month, Chamberlain’s family filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit against the city of White Plains, the White Plains Housing Authority and eight police officers involved in the incident. We’re joined by Mayo Bartlett, an attorney for the Chamberlain family. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to news in the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, the 68-year-old African-American Marine vet who was shot dead inside his own home in White Plains, New York, last November. The police were called to Chamberlain’s apartment this past November after he accidentally set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant. He was a heart patient. Democracy Now! has reported extensively on the case. The police came to his home because LifeAid called them.
In a key development, one of the officers dispatched to the scene, Officer Stephen Hart, has been suspended without pay and now faces departmental disciplinary charges. Hart was presented with the charges Friday, has until July 30th to respond. Public Safety Commissioner David Chong would not state the specific charges against Hart, who is also a defendant in a separate federal police brutality lawsuit stemming from earlier incidents. But if found guilty, Chong said Hart faces penalties ranging from a reprimand to dismissal from the police force.
In the Chamberlain case, Officer Hart is accused of hurling a racial slur at Chamberlain during the incident. Listen carefully to this audio released by the White Plains Police Department from the morning Kenneth Chamberlain was shot dead by police officers. You can hear Officer Stephen Hart banging on Kenneth Chamberlain’s window and using the N-word as Chamberlain repeatedly says, "Don’t do that" and "I’m OK."
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: Don’t do that, sir. Don’t do that. Don’t do that, officer. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Do not do that! I’m telling you I’m OK!
OFFICER STEPHEN HART: Open up the damn door, nigger!
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I’m telling you I’m OK!
OFFICER STEPHEN HART: [inaudible]
KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR.: I’m telling you I’m OK.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Officer Stephen Hart and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. The tragic incident occurred early on the morning of November 19, 2011. When police arrived at Chamberlain’s apartment, he told officers he was OK but refused to let them inside his apartment. The police responded by breaking down his door, shooting him with a taser, then with bean bags fired from a shotgun, and finally Officer Anthony Carelli shot him dead. Police claim Chamberlain tried to attack them with a knife.
Earlier this month, Chamberlain’s family filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit against the city of White Plains, the White Plains Housing Authority and eight police officers involved in the incident. The suit came less than two months after a Westchester County grand jury decided not to indict Police Officer Anthony Carelli for the fatal shooting.
Democracy Now! attempted to reach White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong for comment this morning, but he didn’t immediately respond.
For more, we are joined by Mayo Bartlett, an attorney for Kenneth Chamberlain’s family, former chief of the Bias Crimes Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and former chair the the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.
Mayo Bartlett, welcome back to Democracy Now! We just have a minute, but the significance, the first officer involved in the police killing of Kenneth Chamberlain to be suspended without pay, the one who the DA’s office identified as the one who used the N-word?
MAYO BARTLETT: That’s correct. He’s the one identified as using the N-word. We believe that it was used at least two times. And what’s significant is that he’s denying that he’s the one who did that. And he’s saying that—he’s not denying that the word itself was used, but he’s saying he’s not the one who used it. Now, we don’t know his voice. We don’t recognize his voice. But we know that the words were used. And—
AMY GOODMAN: And do you know that this is the reason he’s been suspended without pay?
MAYO BARTLETT: Well, we really don’t know that, because they won’t even tell us why he was suspended without pay. But I think that logic would dictate that that’s got to be one of the reasons contemplated. And it was in connection with the mayor’s promise that there would be an answer and that there would be disciplinary action taken, if appropriate.
AMY GOODMAN: Is the Justice Department investigating?
MAYO BARTLETT: They are.
AMY GOODMAN: Even though a grand jury has refused to bring charges. Now, the main police officer who shot him dead is known, Anthony Carelli.
MAYO BARTLETT: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: He has not been suspended.
MAYO BARTLETT: Not yet.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of Hart, for you and Ken Chamberlain’s family?
MAYO BARTLETT: Well, the significance of Hart, to us, is that we believed from the very beginning that Officer Hart treated Mr. Chamberlain—that the police department as a whole treated Mr. Chamberlain in a way that he should not have been treated. And it shows that—it vindicates our earlier suggestions that they were unprofessional in their conduct and that they were abusive in their conduct toward Mr. Chamberlain.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we’ll continue to follow this case. You can see all of our coverage of the Kenneth Chamberlain case at democracynow.org. Mayo Bartlett, thanks so much for being with us today.
MAYO BARTLETT: Thank you.