Aletho News


A failure to indict killer police

Don Lash | SocialistWorker | May 14, 2012
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. (second from right) listens as lawyers discuss why the officers who killed his father won't be charged
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. (second from right) listens as lawyers discuss why the officers who killed his father won’t be charged

THE DECISION of a grand jury in Westchester County, New York, to not indict any police officers in the shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. has sparked anger and outrage from Chamberlain’s family and others seeking justice.

Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former Marine and prison guard, was Tasered and then shot with bean bags and live bullets after police burst into his apartment in White Plains, N.Y., outside New York City, on November 19, 2011.

The police who came to Chamberlain’s apartment in a White Plains housing project at 5 a.m. weren’t responding to reports of a crime in progress, but a possible medical problem, after Chamberlain set off a Life Alert pendant, probably by accident in his sleep. A recording by the medical device in his home captured the horrific crime that was to follow.

Despite the fact that Chamberlain told police he was fine, and the Life Alert company also reported the false alarm, police demanded to enter the apartment. When Chamberlain said through the closed door that he was okay, one officer responded, “We don’t give a fuck.” Another officer can be heard referring to Chamberlain as a “nigger” and making a mocking reference to his Marine service.

Police then took Chamberlain’s door off the hinges. They claim he threatened them with a knife before they attacked. Chamberlain’s family disputes this, saying that video taken after the door was removed shows Chamberlain standing inside his apartment, wearing only boxer shorts, with his arms at his side and his hands empty.

The outrage sparked by the police killing of Chamberlain grew, especially in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, along with several other cases of police killings in New York and elsewhere. Chamberlain’s family refuses to quietly accept his killing, speaking out instead to the media, and with an online petition demanding justice that has garnered thousands of signatures.

Finally, last month, it was announced that a grand jury would convene to consider bringing charges against the officers in the case.


THE HOPE of getting justice for the murder of Kenneth Chamberlain was short-lived, however.

On May 3, 2012, a grand jury in Westchester County, New York, voted not to indict any police officers in the shooting. In announcing the decision , Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore presented it as the result of an independent review of the evidence.

But grand jury proceedings are completely secret and controlled by the prosecutor, so the failure to indict almost always means the DA didn’t want an indictment. The fact that DiFiore waited months to convene a grand jury, and reluctantly did so only after the Chamberlain family generated media attention about the shooting, suggests where her sympathies lie.

In addition, she refused to reveal the name of the shooter, and confirmed his identity only after newspaper reporters discovered it was Officer Anthony Carelli. Carelli is currently being sued by two Jordanian immigrants claiming that he and other officers beat them with batons while they were handcuffed to a pole. They claim Carelli referred to them as “ragheads.”

Additionally, police initially shielded the identity of another officer, who is heard on the tape, yelling at Kenneth Chamberlain, “We have to talk, nigger!” Eventually, lawyers for the Chamberlain family revealed that officer to be Officer Steven Hart. Hart is also being sued in federal court by a Hispanic bank manager who claims Hart beat him during an arrest.

The Chamberlain family has stated that it will not accept the results of the grand jury process, and is pressing on with a civil suit and demands for a federal investigation.

After a service at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church during which Rev. Calvin Butts compared the Chamberlain killing to those of Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said, “My father is not here anymore… I refuse to mourn him until there is some justice for my father. And when I say that, I mean indictments. Criminal indictments.”

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which includes Westchester County, has agreed to review the case.

Kenneth Chamberlain’s death is not the only case of this kind of gross injustice in Westchester County. In 2008, a 23-year old Black man name Christopher Ridley, an off-duty Mount Vernon cop, was shot and killed by a white officer as he tried to break up a fight on the street. Ridley’s family alleges in a pending lawsuit that DiFiore participated in a cover-up and engineered a grand jury decision not to issue indictments in the case.

Then, in 2010, a 20-year old unarmed Black college student name Danroy Henry was fatally shot in his car by a police officer who claimed the young man was trying to run him over as he fled. The police version is disputed by eyewitnesses, who say that Henry never tried to flee, and was attempting to comply with a police directive to move his car from a fire lane when he was shot.

Remarkably, Henry was bleeding to death in handcuffs while an ambulance crew prioritized an officer’s minor leg injury, prompting a classmate of Henry’s to step in and administer chest compressions in an attempt to keep him alive. Henry’s family urged the appointment of an independent prosecutor to take the investigation away from DiFiore.


THE EVIDENCE in the Chamberlain case has now been made public, including a series of four calls from the medical alert company. It clearly shows that police unnecessarily escalated the situation leading to Chamberlain’s death.

In the second call, the company dispatcher tells a police dispatcher that the company has made contact with Chamberlain and confirmed he is okay. The company dispatcher attempts to cancel the emergency call, but the police dispatcher says police want to enter Mr. Chamberlain’s home anyway.

In a third call, the medical dispatcher attempts to patch Kenneth Chamberlain’s sister through to police, but the police dispatcher dismisses her offer by saying they don’t want to “mediate.”

In a fourth, the medical company dispatcher again attempts to relate an offer to have Chamberlain’s son called to help deescalate the police confrontation. Eventually, the dispatcher takes a phone number for Chamberlain’s sister, but apparently never made contact.

Police and local news accounts have highlighted Chamberlain’s angry refusal to allow the police entry into his home, and the fact that he had consumed alcohol in his home. Left unexplained, however, is why police were so intent on gaining entry even when they were aware that the call was a false alarm.

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. had committed no crime, and police had no warrant or probable cause to believe that a crime was in progress. While they have characterized him as “delusional” and “emotionally disturbed,” police have not explained why pounding on his door in an effort to force entry, mocking his military service and calling him “nigger” were the best tactics to gain control of the situation–or why they repeatedly spurned offers of help from his family.

In one of the chilling recordings, immediately before the door is taken off its hinges, Chamberlain announced that police were about to break down his door and do him harm. As it turns out, this is the most accurate testimony on the encounter available.

May 14, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Comments Off on A failure to indict killer police

Insecure in the Security State

By HOWARD LISNOFF | April 6, 2012

In order to understand the roots of contemporary police repression in the United States, readers need to return to the Vietnam War era and the attempt of the government to squelch political activism through the use of a centralized system of monitoring and responding to domestic social action and peace movements.

The protest movement of the Vietnam era scared the hell out of the government. The decision of Lyndon Johnson not to seek a second term and the resignation of Richard Nixon (in addition to the specter of Watergate) were reactions to the peace movement and reflections of that fear. Images of Nixon holed up in the White House portraying himself disinterested in the protest movement are at odds with the paranoia that produced Watergate.

Nixon responded to the demonstrations on the streets of the US by putting into motion the apparatus to monitor peace activists around the nation. By the time Jimmy Carter took office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (now under the Department of Homeland Security), originally given the responsibility to respond to disasters, expanded into the area of civil affairs. It was no accident that FEMA set up shop in places like National Guard armories around the nation and in other locations.  The agency was given enormously expanded powers under the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, allowing it to coordinate state defense forces (Martin, Harry, V. “FEMA-The Secret Government,” Free America, 1995). Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the enormous powers that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have added to an imperial presidency! Barack Obama has also given himself the power that allows for the assassination of US citizens deemed a threat to the country. A parallel development in policing that took off as FEMA enlarged its powers was the development of special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams that resembled storm troopers, or alternately, the forces of darkness portrayed in movies like Star Wars.  So, now there existed a centralized apparatus to respond to and track protest movements, and also to respond to them in a way that elicited terror for those who took to the streets in opposition to government policies and actions. It became routine to view nightly news broadcasts showing masses of police storming an area where a suspected criminal was located. Soon, these same shock troops showed up with regularity at protests in increasingly intimidating gear and in larger and larger numbers. Fast-forward over three decades later and it became expected that peaceful Occupy movements across the nation would be subjected to repression by SWAT teams and assaulted. Indeed, The Department of Homeland Security and Patriot Act gave added life to these shows of brute force in the face of peaceful demonstrations.

Now the police role of local, state, and national governments will be heightened by the 2013 completion of the National Security Data Center in Utah, run by the National Security Agency. Every communication, every traceable word, every electronic connection will be monitored by this spy agency. The data center is an Orwellian scenario in its intent and scope.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 gave added sustenance to the security state mindset that is now routinely practiced on the streets of this nation. Occasionally, the security state spills over into what is routine policing. Incidents of police violence are now part of evening news telecasts. Such was the case in the police response to a mistaken call for help placed to a medical alert company in November 2011 in White Plains, New York.

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. accidentally activated the button on his medical alert device in the early hours of a November morning. When he cancelled the false alert, the police showed up at his apartment in force along with an officer dressed in SWAT riot gear. Police demanded entry into Chamberlain’s apartment. He opened his apartment door a crack and told the police to leave. They insisted on entering and removed the door by its hinges and shot the unarmed former Marine Corps veteran dead within minutes of their incursion into his home, but not before taunting him for responding with “Semper fi” in answer to police taunts (“Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?” The New York Times, March 5, 2012). Ironically, Kenneth Chamberlain had spent twenty years as a corrections’ officer. He suffered from a serious heart ailment. For Kenneth Chamberlain’s innocuous mistake of activating his medical alert device, he paid with his life. At least one officer from White Plains was also heard shouting racial epithets prior to the shooting.

So, whether protesting on the streets of the US or accidentally activating a medical alert device, we are no longer safe and secure within the US security state!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached at


April 6, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment