WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – NAACP leaders from local and state chapters joined community members Saturday in front of the Thomas Slater Center to demand accountability for the death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. in the form of a civilian review of the Nov. 19 police shooting.
Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica, Queens, chapter of the NAACP, led a 12:30 p.m. press conference that filled the sidewalk area at 2 Fisher Court. He asked the question "first posed by Thurgood Marshall: Does the Constitution apply to African-Americans?"
"When we look at the Kenneth Chamberlain murder by police officers, we find ourselves asking that very question," Gadsden said. "Does the Constitution, in fact, apply to us?"
On May 3, a 23-person Westchester County grand jury decided not to indict the White Plains police officers involved the Chamberlain shooting.
"We recognize that a life was lost, and this decision does not diminish that fact," Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said in a May 3 statement.
The next day, lawyers for the Chamberlain family wrote a letter asking for a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has said it will review the evidence in the case. Additionally, Randolph McLaughlin, one of the family lawyers, said they are also asking for a formal review of the entire White Plains Police Department.
Chamberlain, 68, was shot Nov. 19 after police responded to a medical alert. Chong has said that Chamberlain lodged a hatchet in the door when police were talking to him from outside his ground-floor apartment at the Winbrook public housing complex, and that he had a butcher knife when they forcibly entered. Chong said the officers tried to use nonlethal tactics, but Chamberlain, a former Marine and correction officer, came at one of the officers with the knife, prompting Officer Anthony Carelli to shoot him twice in the chest. An autopsy found that Chamberlain was legally drunk.
Like Gadsden, Damon Jones, head of the Westchester chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, called Saturday for an independent review and questioned the fairness of the district attorney's investigation.
"We cannot allow police to police the police anymore, because it does not work in the benefit of black people in New York state," Jones said. "So we have to make a stand here."
Chong's May 3 statement the Police Department would conduct an internal review of the incident and fully cooperate with an independent study to be done by a panel of experts to review the department's policies and procedures and recommend any improvements. Chong told The Daily White Plains that his department will also fully cooperate with any inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department.
Lena Anderson, president of the White Plains and Greenburgh NAACP chapter, and Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, echoed Gadsden's remarks by saying they will not rest until the officers involved have been prosecuted.
Visit The Daily White Plains' YouTube channel for video of Saturday's press conference and full-length videos of the evidence released in the Chamberlain case.