Ex-Marine Killed by Police, Raises Questions

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The niece stood in the darkened stairwell of the Winbrook Houses, listening, as 20 feet away five police officers yelled at her uncle, who had locked himself in his apartment.

It was 5:25 on a chill November morning. The officers banged loud and hard, demanding that her 68-year-old uncle open his door.

“He was begging them to leave him alone,” she recalls. “He sounded scared.” She pulls her shawl about her shoulders and her voice cracks; she is speaking for the first time about what she saw. “I heard my uncle yelling, ‘Officers, officers, why do you have your guns out?’ ”

The string of events that night sounds prosaic, a who-cares accumulation of little mistakes and misapprehensions. Cumulatively, though, it is like tumbling down the stairs. Somehow the uncle, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a former Marine who had heart problems and wheezed if he walked more than 40 feet, triggered his Life Alert pendant. The Life Alert operator came on the loudspeaker in his one-bedroom apartment, asking: “Mr. Chamberlain, are you O.K.?” All of this is recorded.

Mr. Chamberlain didn’t respond. So the operator signaled for an ambulance. Police patrol cars fell in behind — standard operating procedure in towns across America. Except an hour later, even as Mr. Chamberlain insisted he was in good health, the police had snapped the locks on the apartment door.

They fired electric charges from Tasers, and beanbags from shotguns. Then they said they saw Mr. Chamberlain grab a knife, and an officer fired his handgun.

Boom! Boom! Mr. Chamberlain’s niece Tonyia Greenhill, who lives upstairs, recalls the echoes ricocheting about the hall. She pushed out a back door and ran into the darkness beneath overarching oaks. He lay on the floor near his kitchen, two bullet holes in his chest, blood pooling thick, dying.

It makes sense to be humble in the presence of conflicting accounts. The White Plains public safety commissioner declared this a “warranted use of deadly force”; the shooter was later put on modified assignment. Mr. Chamberlain, in the commissioner’s telling, had withstood electric charges, grabbed a butcher knife and charged the officers.

The Life Alert phone in Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment recorded most of the standoff, as did a security camera in the hall. And the officers’ Tasers carried video recorders.

Last month, the Westchester County district attorney played these for the dead man’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., who teaches martial arts for a local nonprofit organization and intends to file a lawsuit. He is lithe, with a shaved head, and takes pride in a reasoned manner. “My family, we’re not into histrionics,” he says. “We don’t run down the street inciting riot.”

His voice cracks, though, as he describes the tapes. “I heard fear,” he says. “In my 45 years on this earth, I never heard my father sound like that.”

The district attorney will present the case to a grand jury and has not released transcripts. But the family’s recollection matches that of neighbors who listened through closed doors.

They say officers taunted Mr. Chamberlain. He shouted: “Semper fi,” the Marine Corps motto. The police answered with loud shouts of “Hoo-rah!” Another officer, the niece says, said he wanted to pee in Mr. Chamberlain’s bathroom.

Someone, the niece and neighbors say, yelled a racial epithet at the door. Black and white officers were present.

Kenny Randolph listened from his apartment across the hall. “They put fear in his heart,” he says. “It wasn’t a crime scene until they made it one.”

The police say Mr. Chamberlain was “known” to them, although it appears he had not been convicted of a crime. There are intimations that he wrestled with emotional issues. Sometimes, neighbors say, he talked to himself. Who’s to say? As often, life’s default position is set to “complicated.”

Many police departments have trained corps of officers expert in talking with the emotionally upset. Their rule of thumb: talk quietly and de-escalate. That night in White Plains, no one appeared to have de-escalated anything.

Mr. Chamberlain sounded spooked. His son recalls hearing his father say on tape: “This is my sworn testimony. White Plains officers are coming in here to kill me.” A few minutes later, a bullet tore through his rib and heart. The ambulance took him to White Plains Hospital, where he soon died.

His son lives five minutes away. He says he could have talked his father down. Standing in the office of his lawyer Randolph M. McLaughlin, he mimes knocking on his dad’s door. “Dad, it’s me, Ken, I’m here.” His eyes are bloodshot and brimming. “I always said, ‘I’m the protector now.’ But I wasn’t there when he needed me.”



32 Comment

  1. This incident reminds me of the Henry Louis Gates incident-the cultural divide of America. We simply see things differently. A a former member of the U S Army, I knew that this service did not insulate me from the cultural divide. People arrived at the door step of a fellow citizen with a state of mine, a view of what is and what is possible.

    The Civil Rights laws of America can never lessen this cultural divide. That is why nothing has changed. We are applying the wrong tool to this condition. Whenever anyone has suggested that this was the case they have been shouted down. This difference in orientation is what the Black Power Movement was about, as compared with the Civil Rights Movement. Choice.

  2. This is really a sad story. Our husbands, fathers, sons and daughters fight for this country, make it back home in horrible conditions to get killed worst than an animal on the streets. No one takes the time or have the patience any more, it’s always shoot first and ask questions later, that’s if they survive. I would never imagine this happening, but it seems to be an every day occurrence in this country and it is truly sad.

    • execution of Kenneth Chamberlain in White Plains has ONLY one answer. The execution was based on race. His black skin, in my estimation. I served for several years as president of the Ossining NAACP and many things surfaced during my time as president. Including suits against police brutality of white officers and the response by former police officers(Black) what the real deal is in these racist departments wether White Plains or what.
      Brother Chamberlain did not have to die at the hands of these murderers. We will never know the real deal because the police are taught to lie under oath

      I would take you back to June 12 1998 when a retired Tarrytown police officer Anthony Ambrosovitch 65yrs old killed his wife and adult daughter whose boyfriend was wounded in the killing spree. When police arrived they found out who the cop was. In Tarrytown he was known as the”Gentle Giant.” The so-called “Gentle was a White retired police officer. Remember was a 68yr old retired peace officer that was slaughtered. The police talked to the Gentle Giant for over 4hrs. Remember he just killed two human beings and wounded one person.

      The end result was the Gentle Giant was coaxed (After 4 hours) outside with pistol in hand and tackled and then taken into custody..

      Black folk must wake up! You all know the deal! There will be NO JUSTICE for Kenneth Chamberlain because his life had no value in the eyes of his executioners and those that will defend the execution. DRED SCOTT………….NO RIGHTS OF BLACKS ARE BOUND TO RESPECT.

      You can go to the archives of the Journal News to see the treatment for a killer of a mother and daughter and wounding of a son in law and how the police responded to that of a man whose door is being kicked in over a medical alarm going off by mistake.

      On Sat, Mar 3, 2012 at 9:24 AM, Julie Davis Carran wrote:

      [ Attachment(s)from Julie Davis Carran included below]
      The Journal News
      March 3, 2012
      lohud.com http://www.lohud.com/article/20120303/OPINION/303030025/Sister-wants-answers-brother-s-killing?odyssey=nav|head

      Sister wants answers in brother’s killing

      Kenneth Chamberlain, 68, was shot and killed by White Plains police responding to a medical alert at his Lexington Avenue apartment. Police, who described the former Marine as “emotionally disturbed,” said Chamberlain refused to open the door and attacked police with a hatchet and butcher knife when they forcibly entered the apartment.
      Read our related Dec. 20 editorial at http://www.LoHud.com/opinion

      Written by
      Hattie Chamberlain

      In the early morning of Nov. 19, my older brother Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was shot and killed by a White Plains police officer at his apartment in the Winbrook public housing complex.
      Police had been called by his electronic medical alert, which sounded by mistake. The accounts by police that immediately followed his death portrayed a man so emotionally disturbed that they had no choice but to shoot him. But my family and I viewed video and audiotapes of that encounter, made available in January by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.
      We saw the brother I know telling police repeatedly that he was OK and hadn’t called them, and pleading with them to go away.
      Kenny was 68 years old and had been a corrections officer for over 20 years, and knew his rights and knew proper procedure. But the police persisted and Kenny became more agitated.
      Even then, I am asking why they tried to subdue him rather than reassure him. I do not want to point fingers, but everything I saw confirms it was not my brother who escalated the confrontation that led to his death.
      My brother’s case will be brought before a grand jury soon.
      I want public officials and the public in general to understand that there are many open questions about what happened, what my brother did and what the police officers did.
      Why did armed officers answer a medical call? Did they follow proper procedures? Did they understand their job was to protect my brother? I believe in our justice system but my faith has been shaken dramatically.
      Now my brother no longer has a voice, but I do. I want to speak out for him but also to be sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
      I call for officials at all levels to make sure that there is a full and fair investigation. Please do whatever you can to be sure justice prevails.
      The writer lives in the Bronx.

      Purchase Image
      Around 200 people turned out for a rally at the Thomas H. Slater Center in White Plains Nov. 30, 2011. Kenneth Chamberlain was shot and killed by police during a confrontation at the Winbrook Houses, where he lived. ( Peter Carr / The Journal News ) / Peter Carr/The Journal News


      Attachment(s) from Julie Davis Carran 1 of 1 File(s) Journal News-Hattie Chamberlain 3-3-12.doc
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  3. If you are black, and die for your country in military your a good black american. But! if your black in the military, and killed by the police at home your dead person is in question. That’s two face america for you today.

  4. Life Alert is supposed to assist in saving one’s life by bringing enforcement to your rescue. Why is this man dead? His son needs to sue all entities involved. Sue the police department with multiple suits: discrimination, excessive force, murder/manslaughter, etc. etc. Sue Life Alert for breach of contract, and this may cause them to sue the police department too. All the officers involved need to be sued individually. My heart goes out to the Chamberlain family. May God bless and keep them, and may Mr. Chamberlain rest in peace.

  5. The question is what are we going to do about it!!!

  6. Maybe one day Things like this wont Happen in America…I have seen and read so many incidents of this Happening,as one person said the Lewis Gates Incident,or the young man killed at the bart station in Oakland Ca. Oscar Grant. Its Happened Right here in Omaha when they said the guy had a gun and it was a cell phone….

    • Maybe one day? I’m sorry, but I almost had to laugh at that…we’ve been saying “maybe one day” in this country for over 500 years! That day won’t come, this country was built on hate and meant to maintain white privilege and supremacy. You don’t even have to take my word for that, look around you…look at this article.

  7. a murder is there anyone shocked?

  8. Genocide,right in the faces of the masses.It’s kkk and nazi type activity rolled up into one package.

  9. The biggest problem here is, that fathers have vacated their place in the family. We don’t raise enough MEN. The police come from the families in the USA. Until men become men again things like this will happen.

  10. It is now open season on black males, and even more so since President Obama became the president. The hatred against black males has intensified and almost on a weekly basis we here of white officers gunning down unarmed black men in the same manner that white lynch mobs used to scream “rape” against a black male to incite whites with images of black men as sexual predators and thus justifying stringing up a Black male. Now all police officers have to do is allege the black male had a gun and shoot him down like he is a rabid dog, then stand in court and listen to a white judge issue the decision:”Justifiable Homicide.” If Jews and Gays were being assasinated by police officers as atrociously and with frequency as Black males, there would be a public outcry and a judicial review. We in the African American must began to put pressure on the Justice Department and local city council members to stop the murdering of innocent unarmed Black males.

  11. When will the revolution begin Black people stop waiting for the Lord to deliver you it’s been 500 years its time to do it yourselves stop talking about it just do what you need to do The justice Dept. congress, the president no one will will ever stop the hatred and the killings of blacks we must do it ourselves.This country is built on hatred, lies and corruption Slavery is a part of the hate filled men and women of this country and there is a movement to completely inolate the rest of the few blacks left pay attention. This is getting worst it is as bad as it was in the original slavery days.
    It’s time for this country stop lying and do the right thing but that won’t happend.

  12. Mr. Chamberlain said he was okay the police and everyone at that time should have left.. It is your right as an American citizen to refuse medical assistance and to me that is what Mr. Chamberlain did. Police are very trigger happy and when they should shoot they do not and when they do shot they should not have. Remember Mr. Bell who got killed on his wedding day. Until BLACK people come together and say enough is enough these things will continue to happen.

  13. How long not long……………. We are constantly being beaten, shot, and killed at the hands of police, our own, and those of other races. I am at the point I must stand for something and be killed for something. My Black men and Women are being killed at the hands of KKK Police Officers who are getting away with their evil killings. Only ‘God ‘ can stop this great racial divide. We as people of African Descent must realize and “know” just because we are marrying, dating, socializing with the European Race, there are still those out there who are willing to die and defend their superior white status. You can only tell someone so many times to not gain revenge, however, if you continue to harm another sooner or later it will explode! This was a man who gave his time to fight in the militiary to protect this country – even the racist. To his son you fight all the way to gain the respect and justice your father so greatly deserves.

  14. WHAT GOES AROUND SHOULD COME AROUND..RETRIBUTION!! malcom said what I live by you shoot me I shoot you back… If the fear of making a mistake is instilled in the punks with the so called legal guns …they will think twice RETRIBUTION LARGE WORD WITH A VERY LARGE MEANING thik about it !!!!

  15. I really get tired of revisiting this issue. Those beasts will continue to kill black people, because all we ever do is march and sing we shall overcome. The only language that this beast understands is violence. Stop singing and start swinging “Malcolm X.

  16. Afro-America (I prefer to use this term instead of black America) needs to step out of the darkness of our traditional emotional response to injustices and view what is happening to us in the cold hard atmosphere of today. Last year a similar police murder of an African American 65 year old man living peaceably in his own home occurred. The local drug swat police team were looking for the man’s grandson and broke into the man’s house unannounced waking him out of a sound sleep. Awakened in a panic the man rushed out of his bedroom in his pajamas where he was immediately shot to death by the police who were rummaging around inside his home at the time. As of today inspite of many public meetings with clergy and large numbers of black folks seeking justice for this retired exserviceman, nothing has been done, and the officer who killed him is still on duty. The police department successfully turned their responsiblity for the killing of this innocent man into a very public criticism of the “lack of communication” between the police and the Afro-American communnity. In response to the many meetings with members of the community, the police have created a “Police Community Relations” group and have been busy canvassing all of the local black organizations trying to find African American people willing to join this bogus PR group. This is the way the killing of innocent black people is whitewashed in America in 2012.

    A high ranking African American police official made this insightful observation; “The difference in policing is simply this, in the white community you get HIGH QUALITY police work, and in the black community you get LOW QUALITY police work”. This simple bit of wisdom is rich in factual data that is easily proven statistically at any time. It should also be noted here that the phrases “white community” and “black community” obviously means a specific location in the town or city; but is also extends to those individuals whose color and physical characteristics correspond to that of the residents from one community or the other, and thereby defines the quality of policing that individuals will receive regardless of where they are located physically at the time of the police encounter.

    If Afro-Americans come to regard themselves as a PEOPLE first, then they will be able to supress the blinding emotion caused by the pernicious spector of hatefilled color-directed injustice. It is only in the cool deliberate emotionless atmosphere of a resolute understanding of our true identities that we as a PEOPLE can make the wisdom filled decision as “what WE intend to do about it!” This is the only methodology that has worked for us from the days of institutionalized American slavery when every possible effort was made to strip any sense of identity from our ancestors, and it will continue to work for us as a PEOPLE in 2012. All else is doomed to failure.

  17. I just wish to know what in America do Policemen want in the home of a 68 years old man at 05.25?
    A chilly November morning!

    Brothers and Sisters you need to have a “look back at your roots” and then you have free America for your children someday.
    This is no life, not in Ghana!
    They might be armed thieves but not state policemen so cowardly.

  18. I don’t trust any law enforcement officer. Moral courage is lacking among these critters. The so-called goods ones have no problem turn their backs on the truth in order to save their own paychecks, pensions, and necks. Then again, they are no different than most people…can’t expect them to do good.

  19. Saturday Mar 10th Thomas H Slater center 12 noon

    White Plains NY BE THERE . Fisher ave & MLKjr Blvd

  20. There is only “ONE” solution that would be acceptable and workable. In the words of the Israelite leader, Joshua, “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Will it be God’s way or will it be man’s way? Everyone must choose and everyone must be prepared to accept the rewards/consequences that goes with his choice. No more fighting among ourselves.

    God’s way is spelled out, line upon line and precept upon precept. The scriptures in Ephesians 6:10 – 12 informs us that we are not fighting against “flesh and blood” but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Man’s way is traditional. It has been practiced for over two-thousand years. It is what we have always done.

    For those who are interested in developing a relationship with God-in-Christ that’s up-close and personal, I have listed a website above that will lead you to the first of two books that I have published that will provide you with all the assistance you will need.

    What I believe does not make what you believe wrong, nor does what you believe make what I believe wrong. We all have an opinion and we are entitled to it. Scholars the world-over will agree that opinions are never open to argument; even though all of us enjoy the mental gymnastics that go with them.

    All of us were created “In His Own Image” which gave all of us a Godly nature. However, sin entered the world and distorted that image. Satan didn’t create anything, so he cannot destroy anything, he can only distort it. However, he can influence you and I and cause us to self-destruct.

    The way God made us give all of us “just enough a good and right to make us coherent. But Satan’s deception of Eve and her husband mixed in just enough sin and evil to make our thoughts toxic and degrading. It’s time to choose.

    In the Master’s service
    Dr. C.

  21. George Jackson, “anyone who passes the civil service exam today, can kill me tomorrow.”

  22. Systematic Genocide and other Racial Profiling.doc

  23. I started out by posting a list of thousands of murdered African-Americans at the hands of racist law enforcement officers in America as a tribute to the memory of Kenneth Chamberlain Snr. before I thought, what the hell man..? What difference is it going to make to the family of yet another massacred Black man in America? The truth of the matter is that since America was conceived, there has always been a tacit insertion into the psyche of the Caucasian-American that the decimation of the Black race is a necessity for their survival.

    America has gradually segued from the days of the slavery and lynchings to mealy-mouthed two-facedness and legal executions…the land of the free and the home of the brave? What a joke, more like the land of the shackled and the home of the cowardly. Have you ever noticed how the average Caucasian-American, which is, generally speaking, your average racist, cannot even bring themselves to look you in the eye except when in the planning stages of something dastardly; then it is with a knowingly evil smirk of satisfaction that they are eager to lure you into a false sense of acceptance before dealing you an underhanded blow?

    This will NEVER go away…it took former Speaker of the house Mineta (Japanese origin) from 1945 to 1988 to gain reparations and a national public apology from Reagan for the humiliations and incarcerations of Japanese-Americans during the post-Pearl Harbor attacks. It took him a scant 43 years to achieve for his people what we have failed as a a people to achieve in over 200 years of enduring atrocities so inhumane that if this were a foreign dictator treating his own people like this, use state apparatus to murder them in cold blood, we would have rushed in with planes and bombs before whisking there dictator off to the Court in the Hague.

    I want everybody who reads this…every human being of African descent who reads this to THINK and retweet, resend, re-email and forward this next paragraph, if not this article to everybody they know as a wake-up call to draw attention to the urgency of this situation….

    The number of the victims of World War 1, World War 2, Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, Joseph Stalin’s Russia, Libya’s Muoamar Ghaddafi, Syria’s Bashir, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Joseph Kony (KONY 2012), The South American drug cartels, The impasse in the Middle East, Death Squads in Latin America, The Blood Diamond Wars, The Mau-Mau Wars in Kenya, The Apartheid Regime in South Africa, Executions in China, The Famine in Africa, The Civil War of Lebanon, The Vietnam War as well as EVERY war America has ever been involved COMBINED….ARE LESS THAN THE NUMBER OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS THAT HAVE BEEN MURDERED BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

    During the slave trade alone, upwards of 20 million people died in the demented quest to forcibly transport Africans to America for forced labor so that America could be the wealthy and powerful nation it is today…..and this is a conservative estimate. If one is to believe the writings of notable scholars such as the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke, this number is easily closer to 60 million! (And this was before the lynchings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries or the state-sponsored genocide since then).

    We are locked in a war with the racist power structure of our own country, let’s face it. Until the power structure changes, until we have a preponderance of elected leaders that can change the mindset of brainwashed ordinary Anmericans who have bought into the notion that Black America is the most dangerous thing to happen to this nation instead of the converse, until the killings and disrespect in our own communities and among our own people are replaced by education and a progressive light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel possibility, NOTHING will change.

    My great-grandchildren in the year 3012 will be writing similar essays and making the same pleas to a generation of further disillusioned youth…and the beat goes on while a certain broad Caucasian section of the national populace will continue to jump from twentieth story windows because they lost a few million dollars in the stock market, their priests continue to molest little boys, kidnap, rape and kill little children, get slaps on the wrists for the most atrocious offenses, their crimes will continue to be excused and swept under the carpet under the guise of stress or ‘mental breakdowns’, continue to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the poor and the Middle Class and be bailed out by the government, continue to be the dregs of the same society they currently dominate while making divisive, discretionary sentencing guidelines and racist, marginal laws that make it a crime to be a member of a minority race in the land of the shackled and the home of the cowardly.

    As the great Mutabaruka said in one of his immortal poems, “This poem will not stop even though you want this poem to stop, you will be disappointed by this poem because this poem is to be continued in your mind”.

    Aluta Continua

  24. …forgive my typos. My passion precluded me from doing a thorough spell-check. I now go to my nine-to-five where I expect to be subjected to treatment for which I have little or ineffective recourse….sssh, don’t tell anybody, I am a black man in America….

  25. Please ….this man was a Marine, a retired Marine, perhaps a former Marine… but not an “ex-Marine”.

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