On November 8, 2011, a 68-year-old African American ex-Marine was shot and killed in his home in White Plains, New York by a police officer. Kenneth Chamberlain, who was a heart and respiratory patient, accidently set off his medical alert device while sleeping. The medical alert company, following protocol, automatically called for an ambulance and police to assist him.
Police Arrive at the Home
The police officers knocked on Mr. Chamberlain’s front door. It was 5:00 a.m. Chamberlain told them he was OK, and he did not need assistance. Instead of leaving, the police continued to pound on the elderly man’s door. He continually told them he did not need help, and that he was fine. The police insisted that he open his door. Chamberlain asked them to leave him alone, as reported by Democracy Now and Snopes.
The police were supposed to be there to assist Chamberlain, not for suspicion of a crime. Nevertheless, the police continued to harass Chamberlain from outside his door, pounding on it, yelling curse words at him, and using the “N-word” several times. They even mocked him for being a Marine.
Chamberlain continued to plead with the police to leave him alone. He then purposely triggered his device to tell the medical alert company that he was OK and to ask the police to leave.
The company contacted police to relay the information to them. Police told them they would take care of it from thereon. They proceeded to pound on the door, uttering racial slurs at Chamberlain. They took his front door off the hinges and entered Chamberlain’s home. Chamberlain said, “You’re going to kill me.” The police tasered him and then shot him with a bean bag shotgun, as reported in Democracy Now.
Audio and Video Recording
There was a video device with audio on the taser gun. You can hear the police saying, “shut it off.” The next thing heard was two gun shots. The audio from the speaker from the medical alert company was still running. Evidently, when the officer said to cut it off, he was unaware that they were still being recorded.
Officer Anthony Corelli shot Chamberlain with a loaded weapon two times in the chest. He died in the hospital a couple of hours later. Chamberlain was buried with military honors, as reported in Democracy Now.
The speaker that sat on a table in Chamberlain’s home to enable the medical alert people to speak with Chamberlain if his device was triggered, recorded the entire incident. A security camera in the hallway recorded the police outside Chamberlains’ door. Moreover, the video and audio on the taser gun recorded everything until an officer was heard telling other officers to shut it off.
The firing of two gunshots that followed turning off the taser video and audio was heard from the alert aid company speaker device that sat on the table. Nevertheless, the Grand Jury did not indict Corelli for killing Chamberlain, stating there was no probable cause to indict him. In fact, his name was kept secret for close to five months after the shooting.
The police said that Chamberlain allegedly threatened them with an ax. Then, they changed it to a meat cleaver. Ultimately, the police said it was a butter knife. The video from the taser gun shows Chamberlain standing in the room with his arms to his side. He was wearing boxer shorts and no shirt, since he had been sleeping, as reported in Democracy Now.
When the police entered his home, they did not utter a command to lie on the floor, put his hands up, or anything that would follow typical police protocol. They simply assaulted Chamberlain with the taser, beanbag, and then Chamberlain was fatally shot, as reported in New York Daily News.
A Blatant Lie
Police reported that Chamberlain was threatening them with knives. The autopsy report indicated that the location where Chamberlain was shot proves that his back was turned away from the police. The police also covered up the story by initiating a false representation in the headlines of the New York Daily News by reporting to them that they killed a deranged man who threatened them with a knife, as seen in New York Daily News.
Suspension From Police Department
Officer Stephen Hart, who was continually calling Chamberlain the “N-word” has been suspended without pay. The Chamberlain family received no calls whatsoever from authorities to express their condolences on the death of Chamberlain. Finally, after almost five months, the mayor of White Plains expressed his condolences to the family.
Chamberlain’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr. filed a $21 million lawsuit against the White Plains police department, the housing authority and eight police officers, including Officer Anthony Correlli, who killed his father, as reported in Huffington Post.
We don’t want to believe the police would be so brutal and needlessly forceful to an innocent man. We would hardly believe that a group of police officers would allow one of their own to utter racial slurs and to fire a loaded weapon to kill anyone of a different race.
Perhaps we should wake up to the fact that prejudice is alive and well in this country. People, especially African Americans, Latinos and Middle Easterners may not be safe from the police or anyone with authority, not even in their own homes.
Was it a coincidence that Chamberlain and Trayvon Martin, who was killed earlier this year in Florida, were both African Americans? Both murders received little press coverage for weeks. A total of 45 days passed before security guard George Zimmerman was charged with 2nd degree murder of Trayvon Martin.
It occurred after a huge social media campaign took place through Twitter.com and Change.org, where 2.2 million people signed a petition seeking George Zimmerman’s prosecution. In addition, marches, rallies and protests around the country demanded justice for Trayvon Martin, as seen in the Miami Herald.
Police Brutally Attack a Jordanian Man
Chamberlain and Martin are not isolated cases. Police brutality occurs all over the country, and guilty officers often repeat their offences. Officer Corelli, the man who killed Chamberlain in cold blood, was due in court in April of this year in another police brutality case. He was “the most brutal of a group of officers who allegedly beat one of the two arrestees of Jordanian descent and called them ‘rag heads,’” Democracy Now.
Two brothers, Jerry and Sal Hatter, were part of a gathering around the local downtown bars celebrating Labor Day back in 2008. They were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, which they were later cleared of.
One of the brothers, while handcuffed to a pole in the police station, was savagely beaten by Corelli. He used racial slurs, calling the Jordanian a “raghead,” while beating him in the face with a nightstick and also kicking him in the groin, as seen on Vimeo.
In Anaheim California, police brutality against African Americans and Latinos is common practice. We think of Anaheim as a destination for families to enjoy Disneyland, but there are bad cops brutalizing and killing minorities behind the scenes in this city.
Police Fatally Shoot Latino From Behind
As of July 24, 2012, seven Latinos were shot and killed by police since the beginning of the year. Racial profiling is the strategy behind police brutality, especially in the case of Chamberlain and in recent police shootings in different parts of the country.
In Anaheim, Calif., a witness told the Associated Press, as seen on Democracy Now, that an unmarked car approached several Latino men standing in an alley.
Police exited the car, and several of the men began to run. The police ordered them to stop. Manuel Diaz was one of the men fleeing from the police. He was unarmed, with his back to the officers when he was shot in the buttocks. As Diaz fell to the ground, he was shot again in the head.
The police remained in the area after the shooting. They were confronted by approximately 100 residents, as seen on Democracy Now. The police responded by shooting rubber bullets, beanbags and pepper spray injuring several children and adults.
Police dogs chased and bit several of the residents. One man was bitten on the arm, while he was holding his son, trying to protect him from the police. The police publically apologized for the dog biting. Two of the officers responsible for the shooting were placed on paid leave.; however, the death of Diaz is still under investigation.
Another Latino Fatally Shot
The next day in Anaheim, another Latino, Joel Acedevo was shot dead by the police. He was suspected in a car theft. The circumstances around his death are still not confirmed. A petition was released to the State Attorney demanding a full investigation of both incidents.
Following are significant issues that played a major role in the outcome of each case listed above:
* Racial profiling (prejudice)
* Discrimination (prejudice)
* Excessive force
* Killing innocent people of a different race
* Killing unarmed people of a different race
* Unnecessary killing (not in self-defense)
* Violation of constitutional Civil Rights
These issues have to be made public as soon as they occur. Police have to be accountable for their actions. The United States is not a police state. We are a democracy, and we are protected by our Constitution and the rule of law.
How can this type of brutality persist in this day and age? When are our lawmakers going to take the value of life seriously? Why can police not be held accountable for their horrendous crimes? How can citizens make a difference to end the brutality?
Jan Leonard is currently studying civil law. She found sources online for defending cases of wrongful death and discrimination.