Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Police Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

Life Alert Leads to Death


Published: 04/25/2012

A young Kenneth Chamberlain <br /> in the Marine Corps.
A young Kenneth Chamberlain
in the Marine Corps.
The recent controversy over the killing of Trayvon Martin by community watch volunteer George Zimmerman has led to renewed attention to the November 19, 2011 killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, by police officers of White Plains, New York. The cases are similar because both involve the shooting and killing of a black man and the Chamberlain family has alleged that Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., like Trayvon Martin, was unarmed when killed.

At 5:00 a.m. on November 19, 2011 Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a former Marine and retired corrections officer, was fast asleep in his bed. He lived alone in an apartment in a public housing project at 135 S. Lexington Ave. in White Plains. Because Chamberlain Sr. suffered chronic heart problems, he wore a Life Alert pendant designed to notify the LifeAid company if he was in trouble.

Apparently, the sleeping man accidentally pressed the button on the Life Alert. The company tried to communicate with him through the two-way audio box that had been installed in his apartment. Receiving no response, a LifeAid employee asked police to check on Chamberlain Sr. at his home.

Police arrived and banged on the door. Chamberlain Sr. shouted that he was fine and did not need them.

At this point, stories diverge as to what occurred.

As reported in the New York Daily News, "According to the official police version, the officers heard loud noises inside and thought someone else might be in danger. They said they needed to force their way inside the make sure everything was okay."

Perhaps angered by being disturbed and unaware that he had inadvertently triggered a police visit, Chamberlain Sr. refused to let the officers in.

This led to a standoff that lasted nearly an hour.

Chamberlain Sr.'s niece, Tonyia Greenhill, lived in an apartment upstairs from him. Attracted by the commotion, she went downstairs and tried to talk with the police. She says they ignored her and that she heard her uncle, sounding scared, begging the officers to leave.

The White Plains Patch reports, "According to police, Chamberlain put a hatchet through his door prompting police to break the door down."

Firefighters joined police and together they removed hinges on Chamberlain Sr.'s door.

Police have stated that after they got inside, they found Chamberlain Sr. armed with a knife and appearing to threaten them.

Police zapped Chamberlain Sr. with a stun gun and shot him with a beanbag gun. Finally, Officer Anthony Carelli blasted him twice in the chest with live ammunition.

The wounded man was rushed to the White Plains Hospital where he soon died.

The irony for the Chamberlain family could hardly have been more bitter: the Life Alert pendant a chronically ill man had worn to save his life had led to his violent death.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, White Plains authorities insisted that Chamberlain Sr. had threatened officers. White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong declared it a "warranted use of deadly force."

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