During the Citizens To Be Heard segment before Monday’s Common Council Meeting family, friends and representatives from religious and justice communities in White Plains filled Council Chambers. They sought to implore White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and members of the Council to join them in their demand for transparency regarding the release of information pertinent to the shooting by White Plains police officers and subsequent death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. on November 19, 2011.
On Monday evening, the deceased’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., requested release of the audio and videotapes from the morning of the incident and “the name of the officer who actually shot and killed my father. … In other incidents of shootings in White Plains the names of police officers were given out so it only makes my family and I wonder why this officer’s name has not been released,” Chamberlain Jr. said. “The City of White Plains and the White Plains Police Department speak about transparency. It is hard to trust and believe there will be transparency in this case. I am asking and suggesting the mayor and council put pressure on the police department to release that information. … We feel that it is only right and fair that that officer’s name be released.”
Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., 68, was a resident of the Winbrook Housing project at 135 S. Lexington Avenue in White Plains. During the early morning hours of November 19 it is alleged he accidentally set off the medical alert heart monitor he wore, causing an alarm to be sent to White Plains Public Safety. An ambulance, EMS workers and police officers responded to the scene. When Chamberlain claimed he did not require aid and refused to open the door to his apartment, police officers proceeded to knock the door down. Police said Chamberlain came at the officers with an axe and later with a knife. Chamberlain was stunned with a Taser, several bean bags shot from a gun and ultimately received two fatal shots to the chest before police say he was subdued. In the aftermath two accounts of what happened have emerged, appearing to contradict each other. Police, who are now not commenting because of legal action, initially said the shooting appeared justified and was a last resort. Family members who have seen and heard recordings of the incident have criticized the police action and said the shooting was preventable.
As a courtesy, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office had previously allowed members of the Chamberlain family to view videotape from the Winbrook Housing project cameras where the incident took place and from the Taser used to subdue Chamberlain as events unfolded. Chamberlain, Jr. says the video from the Taser shows the senior Chamberlain standing in boxer shorts with no shirt and no weapon. He also says racial slurs can clearly be heard on the audio. At a previous press conference the younger Chamberlain called the killing of his father a hate crime.
Both White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong and Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore say a full investigation is under way and the case will be presented to a grand jury.
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach spoke the following in Council Chambers after the citizens were heard and later released the statement to the press: “From the date this tragedy occurred I have called for a thorough and complete investigation. I have supported and continue to fully support, as have my Council colleagues, the investigation of District Attorney Janet DiFiore and the grand jury. A full investigation is owed to the late Mr. Chamberlain, his family, the police officers involved and our community. Our great city deserves nothing less.”