Police/FireThe White Plains Examiner

Protestors Demand Justice in Latest Westchester Police Shooting

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By Ryan Raicht

Protestors turned out last week in downtown White Plains to demand the officers involved in the shooting death of Jarrell Garris in early July in New Rochelle are brought to justice.

On July 3, Jarrell Garris was at his local supermarket in New Rochelle, accused of stealing fruit. Police were called, and after about a minute-and-a-half encounter with officers, Garris was shot by Detective Steven Conn.

He died a week later at Westchester Medical Center, and since then, Garris’ family has demanded justice.

Early last Thursday evening, citizens, clergy and family members rallied in downtown White Plains, calling for state Attorney General Letitia James to take action.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen, said Pat Fowler-Bennett, Garris’ aunt. “Not over a case of fruit. Not the one who has mental illness issues. The police department should have known how to deal with the situation instead of taking his life.”

The protest was organized by the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, which is led by Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. Chamberlain’s father, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., was fatally shot by White Plains police officers following an inadvertent Life Alert activation that led to cops being dispatched for a welfare check on him on Nov. 19, 2011. Like Garris, Chamberlain was Black and also had mental health issues.

“We are told time and time again when situations like this happen, to trust the process,” Chamberlain said. “But given the historical injustices that have happened to Black and brown people, it is extremely difficult to put trust in a system that fails us over and over again.

“Far too many times, families like mine have heard that after an exhaustive investigation the grand jury has determined that there’s not sufficient enough evidence to charge the officer in the killing of…and you add the name.”

The three officers involved in the shooting death of Garris have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Last Tuesday, the state attorney general’s Office of Special Investigation, which now examines all deaths caused by a police or corrections officer, released the body cam-worn footage of Conn and the two other officers on the scene, Kari Bird and Gabrielle Chavarry, which range from 30 to 92 seconds each.

Police are contending that Garris allegedly tried to grab the gun of one of the officers.

Despite the action taken by the attorney general’s office, Chamberlain, Garris’ family and other advocates on behalf of victims of police-involved shootings, believe the steps taken so far are nowhere near enough.

“They have to understand that with transparency, you will bring about accountability. With accountability, you can then bring about trust in the communities that you claim that you serve,” Chamberlain said.

William Wagstaff, the attorney for the Garris family, said that not only should Conn be removed from his position immediately, but that the 911 tapes should be released at a minimum to the family.

Wagstaff noted a prior assault charge brought against Conn before he began serving as an officer in New Rochelle, although that charge was later dismissed. He also demanded for regular evaluation of the psychological state of all police officers.

“Most of you have seen the redacted version of the video,” Wagstaff said. “Myself and the family have seen the entirety of the video…What I saw on those videos was a murder…Jarrell Garris was murdered. And we will not rest until he, his family and the community gets justice.”

A wake and funeral were held in New Rochelle on Saturday as Garris was laid to rest.

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