WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The family of a man shot in November by police in a White Plains public housing complex said Wednesday they have a recording from the incident proving that police and emergency personnel used a racial slur before the shooting and are filing a wrongful death suit.
Police were responding to a medical alert at the Winbrook public housing apartment of 68-year-old Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Police shot the former marine after unhinging the door to get inside.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said on Wednesday his lawyers had filed a notice of claim informing the city, White Plains Public Safety Department, and White Plains Housing Authority to expect the wrongful death lawsuit.
"After listening to the audio and looking at the video, it was very clear, in my opinion that there were no reasonable officers on the scene. Their job is to diffuse the situation, not create one," said Chamberlain. "White Plains PD murdered my father. I’m asking that these police officers be brought up on criminal charges, not just the officer that did the shooting, but any and all officers that were on that scene because someone should have stopped that from happening."
The officers' alleged use of a racial slur while demanding that Chamberlain Sr. open the door prompted the son to label the incident a hate crime.
"People are very quick to always say that when a situation happens in a community of men and women of color that we are quick to pull the race card," said Chamberlain. "I did no such thing this whole time. The only time that it came up was when we hear them say, 'We don’t give a f***' and then use the n-word. So from that point on, they made it racial.
"I'm out here fighting for the justice of my father, doing something that I know that he would do had the situation been the opposite or reversed and it was me that got shot."
Lawyers representing the family said an accidentally triggered Lifeline medical alert sent between 10 to 12 officers to Chamberlain's home at 5 a.m. on Nov. 19. The former Westchester County corrections officer told police he didn't need assistance and Lifeline attempted to retract the alert. The lawyers said officers repeatedly taunted the victim while demanding he let them in.
Public Safety Commissioner David Chong has said that a hatchet was thrust through the crack of the door and confiscated by police. Officers then forced open the door and attempted to use non-deadly force before shooting Chamberlain, who pointed a butcher's knife at an officer, Chong said in November.
However, lawyer Randolph McLaughlin said recordings showed that Chamberlain had no weapon and wasn't asked to put his hands up or get on the ground prior to officers using a taser weapon, firing a bean-bag gun at him four or five times, and then shooting him twice in the chest.
"If they felt threatened, why did they step beyond the threshold of that door? If they felt threatened, they should have stayed at that door," said McLaughlin,who is representing the family. "One of the most fundamental constitutional rights that we have in this country is to be secure in our own homes. Mr. Chamberlain’s home became a death chamber, and not a castle, when the White Plains police laid siege to his home for over an hour."
The Westchester District Attorney's Office is expected to call a grand jury to review the incident. McLaughlin said if the jury absolves the officers of wrongdoing, the family may urge the U.S. Attorney's Office to launch a civil rights investigation.
Chong said he will wait until the jury reaches a decision before commenting.
"I have stated all along that we will do a thorough and in-depth investigation and review, that has not changed," Chong said in an e-mail. "In fairness to all, I will wait until the grand jury does their job and returns their findings before I make any further comment."
Karen Pasquale, senior advisor to Mayor Thomas Roach, said City Hall had no comment.