The City of White Plains, the White Plains Police Department, the White Plains Housing Authority and eight city officers are all responsible for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.’s death, according to a $21 million federal lawsuit filed by Chamberlain’s family Monday.
“Each had a role to play in the confrontation and action that ultimately lead to Mr. Chamberlain’s death,” said Randolph McLaughlin, a lawyer for the Chamberlain family.
The lawsuit contends that White Plains Police should have never forced their way into the 68-year-old’s apartment, and that this invasion and harassment—including the use of racial slurs—caused the medical distress call to end with police fatally shooting the former Marine on Nov. 19.
The federal civil rights lawsuit charges that the City, police department, the housing authority the eight officers who responded to Chamberlain’s apartment on Nov. 19 all failed to ensure that the constitutional rights of Chamberlain and other minority groups living at the Winbrook Housing complex were being upheld, since the City allowed three members of the department’s community policing unit—who were all involved in separate pending lawsuits that alleged police brutality and racism at the time of the incident—to continue to work in the neighborhood.
“Our claims against the City of White Plains arise on two levels,” said McLaughlin. “We alleged that they failed to have policies and procedures in place or failed to follow the ones they had, which could have prevented this situation.”
Police say they needed to make sure that Chamberlain was OK and whether there was anyone else in the apartment, since they heard Chamberlain talking to other individiuals.
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Police—who were aware of Chamberlain’s criminal history and had visited his apartment before—said they had to Taser him and shoot him twice with bean bag ammunition before fatally shooting the former corrections officer, since he kept trying to attack police with knives as they forced their way into his apartment.
Though McLaughlin isn’t saying that Chamberlain was mentally disturbed, he said that the City failed to properly train its officer on how to deal with someone who they believed to be mentally disturbed.
Karen Pasquale, senior advisor to Mayor Tom Roach, declined to comment on behalf of the City.
“The City's practice is not to comment on pending litigation,” said Pasquale.
White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said that the officers named in the case would also not comment on pending litigation.
The housing authority is at fault, according to McLaughlin, for being negligent by giving police a master key to enter each of the apartments in the Winbrook Housing Authority, which he says exacerbated the situation.
“Mr. Chamberlain [Jr.] and his family have been waiting a very long time to find out what happened here,” said McLaughlin. “Now we have control and we’re not waiting for the justice department or someone else to find out what happened.”
Click here for our full coverage of the Chamberlain case.