The family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a Black marine vet shot by police in his home in 2011, has recently reached a $5 million settlement in their federal lawsuit against the city of White Plains, New York.
The city’s Common Council approved the multi-million-dollar agreement on Monday, Aug. 7.
The 68-year-old’s Nov. 19, 2011 death was set in motion by his accidentally pressing medical alert badge in his sleep and police responding to the distress signal.
When the cops arrived at his unit in his public housing complex at 5:22 a.m., the man told him that he was not in any crisis. He then asked them to leave, but the officers would not. Instead, one officer called him the N-word, took his door off its hinges, and forced their way into his home.
An investigation determined Chamberlain was shot twice, with one hit to the chest by Officer Anthony Carelli.
Some portion of the incident was captured by a camera attached to a Taser. Chamberlain was standing in his underwear as the officers move in. He was hit with a taser than quickly shot with beans bags with two live rounds immediately following.
Officer Stephen Hart who was on the scene and was heard during a phone recording with the medical company saying “We gotta talk, n***er,” filed in his incident report that Chamberlain “went down” after the bean bags were fired.
“That means they had an opportunity to subdue him,” said Randolph McLaughlin, the family’s attorney at the time. “An EMS worker tells us there was no pause between the bean bags and the gun. It was bean bag, bean bag, gun.”
Officials justified the killing of Chamberlain by pointing out that he was swinging a knife after the police forcibly entered his apartment.
The Common Council released a statement last month about its decision to come to a resolution with the family.
“We are committed to continually reviewing policing policies, investing in training and new technologies as they become available, and working to maintain positive police/community relations, not forgetting these events but working to ensure that they do not happen again,” the statement said.
The White Plains Police Benevolent Association criticized the decision to settle, stating that while the agreement concludes the years-long legal battle, it does not imply the city’s acceptance of the officer’s wrongdoing.
“To be clear, the settlement is not a finding of misconduct or wrongdoing by the officers who responded to this call,” a statement from the police association said. “Our members are asked to place their lives in jeopardy each and every day, as they were on the date of this incident.”
Chamberlain’s family has been fighting for a 12-year battle for justice and agrees with the police association — the settlement does not concede misconduct.
“While monetary compensation is one component of recognizing the wrong that was done to my father, it does not equate to accountability,” said Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. in a statement, according to LoHud.com.
Adding, ”My family hopes this settlement will inspire other victims of police violence to keep fighting for the truth. The Chamberlain family will never stop seeking answers and standing with other families doing the same.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2012 but has had a complex history to get to this point.
The complaint has gone to federal appeals court twice, where it currently resides. A jury previously ruled in favor of Carelli, the now-former White Plains cop who shot him, regarding his use of force against Chamberlain. However, a second trial for a separate claim was still pending before the settlement.
One of the attorneys representing the family’s interest, human rights lawyer Mayo Bartlett, said the family is seeking “actual structural change,” adding, “It has to be something that’s codified in law” and addressed in legislation by politicians invested in disrupting police misconduct.
The story made international news, with a film about the incident, “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain,” being released in 2021.