Judge Rules Kenneth Chamberlain Lawsuit Can Move Forward in Federal Court

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a White Plains Man who was shot dead by police in November of 2011, can move forward.

LoHud reported earlier this week that U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel have the go ahead to most of the family’s claims against the City of White Plains,  Police Officer Anthony Carelli, Sgt. Stephen Fottrell and Sgt. Keith Martin. Among the claims that Seibel did dismiss was the family’s wrongful death claim.

“Plaintiff’s wrongful death claim fails as a matter of law,” Seibel wrote in her ruling. “The Amended Complaint contains no allegations that Chamberlain leaves behind any distributees who have suffered a pecuniary loss by reason of his death. Plaintiff argues that the Amended Complaint “mentions” Chamberlain’s two children…which by itself is not sufficient.”

Seibel also dismissed claims made by the family against the White Plains Housing Authority and the other police officers involved in the incident, including Stephen Hart, who was fired from the White Plains police department earlier this year, according to news reports.

“These Defendants’ actions do not constitute assaults or batteries under New York law,” Seibel wrote in her ruling. “None of these actions caused a reasonable apprehension of bodily injury that is sufficiently “imminent” to constitute an assault, and none of them proximately caused any contact with Chamberlain’s person, defeating Plaintiff’s battery claims. Nor do they amount to a breach of duty proximately causing Chamberlain’s injuries. The tort claims therefore fail as a matter of law, also resulting in the failure of the conscious pain and suffering and wrongful death claims. Accordingly, the state tort claims are dismissed in their entirety against Defendants Hart, Love, Demchuk, Markowski, and Spencer."

Seibel also threw out a conspiracy claim made by the family.

Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former U.S. Marine and corrections officer, was killed after White Plains police entered his apartment inside the Winbrook Housing complex, located at 135 S. Lexington Ave. in White Plains. Police arrived at Chamberlain’s apartment after his Life Aid device was accidentally activated and he failed to respond to the Life Aid operator.

Police initially responded to the scene with firefighters and emergency personnel. A history check showed that there were earlier calls for an emotionally disturbed person at Chamberlain's apartment.

Police allegedly knocked on Chamberlain’s door and requested to come inside. Chamberlain told the officers that he did not place the phone call and he declined to let them in. Police continued to the knock on the door and the Life Aid operator, through the use of a two-way, told Chamberlain that the officers would leave after they checked on his safety.

Police, who had a master key to all of the apartments in Winbrook, finally opened the door, but could not open it all the way due to safety lock that was still in place.

When police removed the apartment door, they said Chamberlain came at them with a knife. He was hit with a stun gun, beanbags and, finally, two rounds from a handgun.

Last year, a grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to pursue criminal charges against the police  reasonable cause to vote for an indictment in the in the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.

The family's lawyers have said the police department and housing authority failed to protect the constitutional rights of Chamberlain and other minority groups living at the Winbrook Housing complex by allowing three members of the department’s community policing unit—who were all involved in separate pending lawsuits that alleged police brutality and racism—to continue to work in the neighborhood.

The family's lawyers have also said that police actions directly lead to Chamberlain’s death, since police escalated the situation by calling him a racial slur and forcing their way into his apartment.

The remaining parties in the suit are scheduled to appear before Seibel Friday.

Copies of the original complaint and Siebel’s decision have been attached to this post as PDFs.


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