WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A grand jury decided that there was "no reasonable cause" to indict the police officers involved in the death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Janet DiFiore, Westchester County district attorney, announced Thursday afternoon.
The district attorney said the grand jury heard testimony from 42 people, including 21 civilians and family members, before reaching its decision not to charge White Plains police officers. The grand jury began hearing testimony April 11 and concluded Wednesday.
The 23-person grand jury voted against an indictment, saying there was no reasonable cause for a charge.
Chamberlain was shot Nov. 19 after police responded to a medical alert. Public Safety Commissioner David Chong has said Chamberlain lodged a hatchet in a crack in the door when police were talking to him from outside his ground-floor apartment, and that he had a butcher's knife when they forcibly entered. He said officers tried to use non-lethal tactics, but the former marine and corrections officer came at one of the officers, Anthony Carelli with the knife, prompting him to shoot Chamberlain in the chest twice.
The Chamberlain family said officers used a racial slur and expletives before unhinging the Winbrook Public Housing apartment door and shooting the 68-year-old, whose autopsy revealed he was legally drunk.
After DiFiore made her statement, Mayo Bartlet and Randolph McLaughlin, who represent the Chamberlain family, addressed the media outside the county courthouse.
"It was my belief that at a minimum there would be a consideration at least of the charge of criminally negligent homicide," Bartlett said. "We don't know what charges were considered, we don't know if multiple charges were considered and we don't know who the targets of this investigation were."
While no indictments will be made in connection with Chamberlains' death, DiFiore announced members of the White Plains Police Department have assured her they will conduct a thorough review of their procedures. Mayor Thomas Roach issued a statement Thursday saying the public safety department will conduct a full review looking into whether all procedures were followed, in addition to seeking authorization from the city council for funding to organize a panel of experts to review those policies and procedures and recommend any improvements.
"I have assured the mayor that the department will now complete its internal review of the incident," White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said in a statement. "The department will also fully cooperate with the independent study that the mayor has called for."
Bartlet and the Chamberlain family's other lawyers have said video and audio of the incident prove that officers taunted Chamberlain Sr. and called him a racial slur before breaking down his door, firing a Taser at him without issuing commands and ultimately killing him. This, the family said, was in violation of the police departments own procedures.
DiFiore said the recordings from several sources were used as evidence and played in their entirety for the grand jury. In a statement from the Chamberlain family, they questioned what evidence was presented to the grand jury. Among them, DiFiore said, were video and audio from the Taser gun used by a police officer on Chamberlain. Audio recorded by the medical alert agency, LifeAid, revealed that an officer did use a racial epithet, DiFiore said Thursday.
"While this utterance itself is not a crime under NYS law, the use of a racial epithet in any context is offensive to every one of us," she said in her statement. "And the use of that word by anyone, let alone a public service who was sworn to uphold the public good, is intolerable and should have never have been used. And I have been assured by the White Plains Police Department that they will be reviewing this conduct as well."
The Chamberlain family issued a statement reacting to the decision not to indict the police officers involved.
"As I have stated before it is hard to put trust in a system that I feel has failed me already and that no indictment sends a very strong message to the people of Westchester County regarding police misconduct, brutality and criminality," the statement read. "There will be justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr."
McLaughlin made the family members’ intentions clear, announcing they have served the City of White Plains a notice of their intention to file a lawsuit.
"We will now move expeditiously to file a federal civil rights wrongful death action on behalf of the Chamberlain family," McLaughlin said.
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