WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Nearly 200 people marched Saturday in White Plains demanding the firing or suspension of the police officers involved in the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. on Nov. 19. Before their quarter-mile march, they gathered at the Thomas H. Slater Center, where several spoke of their fight to get justice for the former Marine and others who have been killed or injured recently by police officers.
“There has to be oversight,” said Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. “It’s not just about justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. It’s about justice for anyone that is a victim of anything that’s questionable by a people who swore an oath to serve and to protect.”
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., who has received support from the state and local NAACP chapters, revealed that he has questioned himself about that day and thought, “what if” he had been there with his father, but always came to the same conclusion.
“I would probably be dead right along with my father, because they probably would have killed me, too, and they definitely would have planted something on me and said, ‘He attacked us,’ ” Chamberlain said.
Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, was shot after police responded to a LifeAid alert, which he apparently had mistakenly pressed. Public Safety Commissioner David 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.
On May 3, a 23-person Westchester County grand jury decided not to indict the White Plains police officers involved the shooting. A federal investigation into the matter was opened.
Chamberlain Jr. said Saturday that he was upset with black Westchester County elected officials for their lack of action and for not contacting him and his family.
“My biggest question is, where are our black elected officials?” Chamberlain said. “Where they at? Why hasn’t any of them said anything to me or my family?”
He said during the march that elected officials should “step up and demand that there be some type of accountability.”
“You just can’t let situations like this happen and our elected officials, people who we vote for, do not step and say something is wrong here and demand for an investigation,” Chamberlain said.
He was irate at Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, saying that she did not care about the case.
“When you have some of the top legal minds that have listened to the audio and the video and it is very clear criminal wrongdoing – you even have police officers that listened to the audio and video and have said there was criminal wrongdoing here,” Chamberlain said. “So, why is it that our top law enforcement officer of Westchester County can’t see that? The only thing that I can is that maybe she didn’t want to see it.”
Several people spoke at the rally, including Chamberlain; his attorneys; Maria Valentin, chair of the Lower Hudson Valley Civil Liberties Union; and others.
While Valentin, along with the other speakers, wants an independent review board established in the county, she would also like the county to take a look at “how we recruit police officers.”
“They have a difficult job to do,” she said. “I think they deserve more pay and in turn we can ask more from them.”
Valentin added that this “egregious” incident “makes people realize if we don’t stand up and act, it’s going to get worse.” She stressed that the group is “not against the police at all.”
“Our issue is with police officers who don’t follow protocol, or in support of what they interpret as protocol don’t follow common sense, and that’s not most of the police officers,” Valentin said.
The march went to the White Plains Police Department and then continued with more speeches in front of the statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. outside the Westchester County Courthouse.
During the march, Chamberlain said he was pleased to see hundreds attend the event.
“There will be justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. I’m here for as long as it takes. I’m not going anywhere,” he said.