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Family Honors Chamberlain, Asks for Independent Investigation

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Friends and neighbors gathered in the Thomas H. Slater Center Wednesday to support the family of Kenneth Chamberlain, the 68-year-old Winbrook Public Housing resident who was fatally shot by police on Nov. 19, 2011, and encourage those with information to come forward.

Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said his family was still recovering from the “tragic incident” and the loss of Kenneth Chamberlain, who his son described as a retired county corrections officer, former Marine, and family man.

“He is a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend,” said Chamberlain Jr. “He’s a kind, gentle, God praying man who kept to himself but was always willing to help somebody in their time of need.”

The District Attorney’s Office and the White Plains Police Department have launched an investigation into the events that transpired after police responded to a medical alert on Nov. 19 and were unable to get Chamberlain to open his apartment door. Public Safety Commissioner David Chong has said Chamberlain swung a hatchet through the crack of his apartment door and later turned towards a cop with a butcher’s knife, prompting the officer to fatally shoot him twice.

Chamberlain Jr. said his family “expects nothing less than a full and honest investigation as promised,” but would also like to see an independent agency investigate the shooting.

“We’re not anti-police. My father was law enforcement, nevertheless, we are concerned about the challenges that the department faces and the hazards of investigating itself. For this reason we believe that there should be an independent agency to investigate in my father’s death and in all matters where police use deadly force,” he said.

Mayo Bartlett, a former Westchester County Assistant District Attorney now representing the Chamberlain family, asked the more than 100 attendees to share any additional information or observations that would help the community “seek the truth.”

“What has occurred to Mr. Chamberlain is a wound to everybody that lives in Winbrook, everybody that lives in housing, to everybody that lives in White Plains and beyond that,” said Bartlett. “If anybody happens to have information, we need that information to be shared.”

Audio and video surveillance of police’s interactions with Chamberlain exist, according to Bartlett, who said the family hopes to use the tapes as “objective” records.

Bartlett said he believes police responded to a “false alarm” medical emergency and that Chamberlain was sleeping when his medical alert system was set off. He also said that Chamberlain’s niece identified herself as a relative while outside of his apartment on Nov. 19 before police shot him twice in the chest.

“It’s my understanding that she was in the hallway for at least 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes,” said Bartlett. “They didn’t ask her to help, as far as I understand.”

Chong said he was not able to comment on the incident because it was under a grand jury investigation. However, the public safety commissioner previously said he believed all responding officers followed departmental procedures and initially tried to subdue Chamberlain with several non-lethal tactics, including a taser and a beanbag shotgun.

The Chamberlain family intends to create a foundation to provide the community to educate younger residents about law enforcement, strengthen community relationships with the police, and “prevent this from happening again,” according to Bartlett.

Rev. Jeffery R. Wheeler invited the community to honor Chamberlain as “a man of character, a man of integrity” and a “man of value” at a funeral service at the Mount Calvary CME Church in Mount Vernon on Dec. 5.  A viewing from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. will be followed by the funeral.

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