WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Police in suburban New York responding to a medical alert used excessive force when they killed an emotionally disturbed 68-year-old ex-Marine, the man's son claimed in a $21 million lawsuit Monday.
The federal lawsuit also alleges a conspiracy by eight members of the White Plains Police Department to deprive the victim, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., of his constitutional rights.
A call to the police commissioner was referred to City Hall, where Karen Pasquale, senior adviser to Mayor Thomas Roach, said the city would not comment on a pending lawsuit.
Police went to Chamberlain's apartment after a monitoring company reported that his medical alert device had gone off. Chamberlain, who had a heart condition, repeatedly told officers through his locked door that he was fine, but they insisted on seeing him.
When they removed the apartment door, police said, Chamberlain came at them with a knife and hatchet. He was hit with a stun gun, beanbags and finally gunshots.
Chamberlain was black. The officer who fired the fatal shots is white.
"We've charged a conspiracy against the rights of minority group members in White Plains and Mr. Chamberlain in particular," said attorney Randolph McLaughlin. He said one officer's use of an ethnic slur backs the conspiracy claim.
Two months ago, a Westchester County grand jury found no crime had been committed in the Nov. 19 killing. District Attorney Janet DiFiore called the killing "a tragedy on many levels" but said the grand jury found no reasonable cause for an indictment.
The victim's son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., said Monday that the evidence — including extensive audio and video from the scene — "was not presented fully and fairly" to the grand jury.
"Make no mistake, my father was murdered," he said.
He said the civil suit "allows us to take control of the situation. This time we will present the evidence."
McLaughlin said a police report indicates Chamberlain Sr., an ex-Marine, fell to the ground after being hit by the beanbags.
"Why didn't they swarm him then?" McLaughlin said. "Why did they have to kill him?"
Chamberlain's son said he is still hoping for a criminal indictment from the U.S. attorney's office, which said in May it would review the evidence.
The lawsuit names the city of White Plains, its housing authority and eight members of the police department, including Officer Anthony Carelli, who fired the fatal gunshots.
In addition to excessive force and conspiracy, the lawsuit alleges wrongful death. It says the city failed to properly train and supervise the police and the housing agency illegally gave police keys to the building's apartments.