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Grand Jury Declines to Indict Officers in Chamberlain Shooting

No criminal charges in the Chamberlain case, but the DA orders a full review of force within the White Plains police department.

A grand jury has voted not to indict any police officers involved in the death of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the Westchester District Attorney said Thursday.

There was "no reasonable cause to vote an indictment," DA Janet DiFiore said.

At the same time, she revealed that she has been assured the police department will order "a top to bottom review" of the procedures and training involving the use of force with respect to emotionally disturbed people. She said her office will monitor this review.

The grand jury was tasked with hearing testimony over whether criminal charges should be brought against the White Plains Department of Public Safety for their actions the night Chamberlain was killed. Proceedings began on April 11 and concluded May 2.

Chamberlain, a 68-year-old retired Marine, was shot and killed on Nov. 19 by White Plains Officer Anthony Carelli in his apartment a 135 S. Lexington Ave.

The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door to respond to his medical alert device.

The grand jury considered more than 100 pieces of evidence and heard testimony from 42 witnesses including police officers, Chamberlain's family members and neighbors, DiFiore said. Carelli, along with the two other officers who used force against Chamberlain, all testified before the grand jury without immunity from prosecution, DiFiore said.

All audio and video evidence captured through the police Taser and Chamberlain's medical alert system were played for the grand jury in their entirety, the DA said. Though the district attorney's office said they will not be releasing any of the recordings, White Plains Commissioner of Public Safety David Chong said the department would release the footage to the media. 

"The grand jury heard all of the evidence on the use of physical force by the police in this encounter," DiFiore said. "The grand jury also heard the evidence of the threat of physical force by Mr. Chamberlain during the encounter."

DiFiore said the law restricts her from discussing specifics about the evidence presented to the grand jury. She also declined to comment on the ethnic backgrounds of the 23-member grand jury, saying she was only allowed to release a statement after receiving clearance from a judge Thursday morning.

Chamberlain's family say the facts show White Plains officers acted with racial bias and extremely recklessness against Chamberlain, an unarmed heart patient. They announced they would file a wrongful death suit against the city and the Police Department in February. 

The family has also threatened to bring the case to federal court if a Westchester jury does not bring an indictment. DiFiore said her staff has already met with representatives from the United States Attorney's office, as is protocal during such cases and that her office will no longer investigate the case.

"Our work is done," she said.

Wednesday, Chamberlain family lawyer Randolph McLaughlin, also a Pace University professor, said that at least three White Plains officers working the night Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was shot and killed have pending lawsuits involving allegations of police brutality that also touch on race. 

Then a White Plains federal jury decided in favor of one of those officers, Sgt. Stephen Fottrell, rejecting the claims of a Brooklyn woman who said the officer abused her outside a White Plains bar in 2006. Fottrell was on call at South Lexington Avenue when Chamberlain was shot.

Carelli is one of six White Plains officers accused in $10 million civil lawsuit brought by twin brothers of Jordanian decent, McLaughlin said. Officer Steven Hart is also facing a federal civil right suit. McLaughlin said Hart could be heard on a transcript saying, “Stop, we have to talk [the n-word]” before police broke down his door.

Today, DiFiore confirmed that a racial slur was used by one of the officers there, but did not name the officer. He was outside a window of the basement apartment and was not one who used force. Difiore said she has been assured by the police department there will be a review of that officer's conduct.

"While this utterance itself is not a crime under New York State law, the use of a racial epithet in any context is offensive to the dignity of every one of us," DiFiore said. "The use of these words by anyone—let alone a public servant who is sworn to uphold the public good—is intolerable and should never, ever, be condoned or ignored."

 police often visited Chamberlain, whose autopsy revealed that he was legally drunk at the time, and that Chamberlain threatened to kill himself and attacked officers with a hatchet and knife before police shot him.

When asked about her office's failure to bring an indictment in the case, DiFiore said the lengthy investigation presented all of the evidence possible and that her office's work "speaks for itself".

"We did everything we could and should do to put before that grand jury every piece of relevant and admissible evidence so the grand jury would be in the best position possible to determine whether or not anyone was responsible for committing a crime," she said. "I think that the grand jury reviewed that evidence carefully and came to that determination."

Click here for all of White Plains Patch’s coverage on the incident.

Aidan May 04, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Another tragedy. Life is full of them ... and most have a very gray tinge to them. It seems that the grand jury did its duty and made its decision. I feel uncomfortable clawing for a different analysis without having the facts. And not one poster has all the facts. In the end, it is what it has been from the start ... a human tragedy.
Ross Revira May 05, 2012 at 02:28 AM
In this country Ms. Henry anybody can sue anybody regardless of the merits of the case. Just because there is pending litigation against these three police officers has no bearing on this case. The Town of Harrison had 11 lawsuits against a small group of police officers recently and not one case was successful. It is unfortunate that an ex marine and ex correction officer had to die but from what also has been reported he was a drug user ,alcoholic and most likely mentally ill. Where was his families concern before this tragedy? Could a million dollar plus lawsuit bring out the family concern now?
Sick-n-Tired May 05, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Watch out you might fall off your soap box.
Mr3 May 14, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Ross exactly where was this family before this mans passing and when he obviously needed them? They were estranged. Funny how dollar signs bring a family together.
JJ January 03, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Mr3...............You have broken the code Sir.

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