Lawsuit Over Police Shooting of White Plains Man Proceeds

, New York Law Journal

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A federal judge has refused to dismiss civil rights claims over the wrongful shooting death of a disturbed 68-year-old man by White Plains police officers who responded to his apartment after receiving a call from the Life Aid medical alert system.

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was on psychiatric medication when he refused to allow the officers to enter his apartment in November 2011. The police entered anyway to confront Chamberlain, who was armed with a knife and making threats.

The officers, who say Chamberlain could not be subdued, twice used a stun gun on him, hit him with beanbags fired from a gun and shot him in the chest twice. But Chamberlain's family say the officers made a bad situation worse by escalating the confrontation and causing his death.

In a case where there are audio and video recordings of the incident, including a recording by the Life Aid operator, the City of White Plains and its defendant officers moved to dismiss, but Southern District Judge Cathy Seibel (See Profile) rejected the motion as to the central claims in Chamberlain v. City of White Plains, 12-CV-5142. However, Seibel did find that officers had the right to enter the apartment because Chamberlain, who was hallucinating, posed a danger to himself and possibly others.

At around 5 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 19, 2011, Chamberlain's Life Aid device was accidentally triggered, activating a two-way communication device that began recording what took place between his apartment at the Winbrook Houses development and the Life Aid center.

The operator could hear Chamberlain, a Marine veteran, stating, "You can't hide from me. What I'm gonna do is give you a good ass wuppin." But when Chamberlain did not respond to the operator, the operator called the White Plains Department of Public Safety, where a dispatcher took note that there had been several "emotionally disturbed person calls" at that address.

When officers and paramedics arrived at the scene, Chamberlain said through the door that he had not called Life Aid.

The police demanded entry to confirm that Chamberlain was OK, but he refused. When the operator advised Chamberlain to open the door, he declined, saying, "I did not call the police"; "No, I will not open my door"; and "This is an alert, this is an alert from Washington, D.C. An all-points bulletin all areas. I am being overrun by the White Plains Police Department."

Tactical police officers were then dispatched and police obtained a key to the apartment from the White Plains Housing Authority, but Chamberlain had kept the safety chain on his door, denying them entry. Officers were also in contact by phone with Chamberlain's sister, Carol Mathew, who informed them that her brother had mental problems.

For the next hour, Chamberlain became even more agitated and had multiple delusions and hallucinations. He made several threats to the officers, including, "The first one coming through that door I'm gonna kill."

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