04/17/2012

 

Medical Alert Call Goes Wrong, Man Ends Up Shot and Killed

 CNN

 

New York- It was just after 5 a.m. on a cold November morning in 2011 when Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine with a severe heart condition, accidentally set off a medical alert pendant.

An ambulance was dispatched to Chamberlain's White Plains, New York, apartment, though police who respond to such calls as a matter of routine arrived ahead of the emergency medical workers.

Within the hour, Chamberlain, who is black, lay dying -- from two rounds fired into his upper body by a white police officer.

What led to the shooting of Chamberlain is the subject of a grand jury hearing underway this month, and a matter of heated debate between the White Plains Police Department and Chamberlain's family and friends.

Police say Chamberlain came at them with a butcher knife when they broke down the door after he refused to open it; the family claims the elderly Chamberlain was unarmed, and that he told police through the closed door that he did not need any assistance.

In wake of the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, black 17-year-old who was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the Chamberlain case has gained national interest -- and national media attention.

More than 206,000 people have signed an online petition demanding "Justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.," with many signatories drawing similarities between the case and that of Martin.

The petition, started by Chamberlain's son, Kenneth Jr., calls for Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore to charge the officers involved in the shooting with murder and civil rights violations.

"I am sorry for your loss. An outrage of the magnitude of Trayvon Martin," Karen Goodwin of Dover, New Hampshire, wrote on the petition.

Much of the controversy surrounds audio and video recordings made in the minutes before the November 19 shooting.

The medical alert device recorded much of the conversation between police and Chamberlain, according to Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., who said authorities played the audio and video for the family in the aftermath of the shooting.

"You hear one of the officers use expletive and said that he didn't give an F. Used the N-word," he said.

Law enforcement sources confirmed to CNN's Soledad O'Brien that racial slurs are clearly heard on the audio tape.

Chamberlain's niece, Tonya Greenhill, who lived next door, said she heard police banging on her uncle's door that morning.