Autopsy Suggests Man Shot by NY Police Did Not Threaten Them

April 11th, 2012

Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68 year-old man in New York, was killed in his home by police after his life-alert pendant was accidentally triggered while he slept during the night and the police were alerted. They reported to his apartment and, despite him yelling that he was okay and for them to go away, they broke down his door. The police claim that Chamberlain was holding a knife and advanced toward them, so they fired a taser and beanbag at him, neither of which stopped him. So they killed him.

His autopsy, though, seems to contradict those claims:

Cops say Chamberlain, 68, was advancing toward police with a butcher knife on Nov. 19 when White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli fired two shots to stop him.

Randolph McLaughlin, attorney for Chamberlain’s family, said the trajectory of the fatal bullet suggests Chamberlain was neither facing the police nor holding up a weapon.

Even if this isn’t the case, there never should have been a confrontation. Chamberlain’s pendant was accidentally triggered, he told them he was fine, and that should have been it—but the police insisted he open the door. Why? What purpose did that serve? What reason did they have?

The life-alert company even attempted to cancel the call for assistance, which was rejected.

The police claim they heard loud noises inside and insisted he open the door to verify everyone was OK.

Chamberlain, it should be noted, was a black man who had served in the Marines. This should be noted because of the police’s overreaction (a very kind characterization), and because audio of the entire standoff was recorded by the life-alert company’s box inside his apartment. And because one officer is heard on the tape saying “I don’t give a fuck, nigger, open the door!”

Video from a camera mounted in the hallway shows that after the police began to pry the door open, a metal object was slipped through the gap in the door and fell to the ground. Chamberlain’s son, who saw the video, says it is not clear what it is, but that it may be the knife the police claim Chamberlain had.

It may be a knife. Chamberlain may have come after them with a knife, too, after they forcibly entered his apartment and shot him with a taser, as the police claim. Analysis of the autopsy may be incorrect and the police’s account may be true.

But what’s also true is the police created a confrontation where there needn’t be one. They were there for his safety, and yet, they insisted on entering his home even after he told them he was OK. Who wouldn’t be agitated after being roused from bed by police at 5 AM, and then police with guns drawn? Who wouldn’t be scared?

And as a result, Chamberlain was shot to death. A 68 year-old man with a heart condition, a veteran and a father, was killed in his own home by the people who were supposed to be there for his protection.