A Westchester grand jury cleared Officer Anthony Carelli last week of all criminal charges in the shooting death of retired Westchester corrections officer and former Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. in his apartment on Nov. 19, 2011.
The Westchester district attorney’s office released 200 pages of records, including audio and videotapes, that show Chamberlain loud and animated throughout the encounter while cops tried to persuade him to open his door and put down his weapon.
“They have shotguns, stun guns, they have their Glocks out . . . they’re trying to kill me!” said Chamberlain according to audio captured by the LifeAid company.
Randolph McLaughlin, one of the Chamberlain family lawyers, noted that officers “brutally” killed him after “threatening him, taunting him and using racial slurs.”
“We think that the grand jury’s failure to indict any officer for any crime in connection with the killing of anyone is a travesty of justice,” said McLaughlin.
The grand jury began hearing the case against Carelli three weeks ago after national media attention over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida sparked new interest in the Chamberlain shooting.
“We did everything we could, and should do, to put together every piece of relevant and admissible evidence, but ultimately the grand jury did not find evidence to bring forth an indictment upon Officer Anthony Carelli, who had been identified as Chamberlain’s shooter,” Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement.
White Plains PBA President Robert Riley thanked the grand jury for reaching “the obvious conclusion that Carelli’s actions were necessary and justified.”
“Every police officer’s worse nightmare is to be forced to take a life,” Riley told reporters.
Throughout the investigation, the police officers involved have been under fire for their questionable use of police authority. Officer Stephen Hart, who was caught on tape calling Chamberlain the N-word, is facing his own civil suit in federal court for a different incident. A young Hispanic HSBC bank vice president alleges that Hart broke his nose last January while arresting him for disorderly conduct.
Sgt. Stephen Fottrell, one of the supervisors on the scene at Chamberlain’s house that night, had a federal case dismissed last week in court after a Black woman claimed he fired a stun gun at her in 2009. Meanwhile, Carelli, who shot Chamberlain, faces a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
In requesting a federal review by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., McLaughlin said cops violated Chamberlain’s constitutional rights and that he and others “have been subjected to the use of excessive and/or deadly force, discriminatory harassment based on race and disability and the use of racial slurs by Westchester police officers.”
DiFiore said the officer intended to distract Chamberlain with the use of the N-word, a tactic she condemned. “The idea that in 2012 an police officer would justify using a racial slur indicates a biased state of mind, especially an officer who is dealing with someone they believe is an emotionally disturbed person. How is that going to help you do your job protect to him and keep him safe?” McLaughlin asked.
“We are gratified that after we sent a letter to the Manhattan U.S. attorney general’s office, they have indicated that they will review all evidence in this case to see if there are federal criminal civil rights violations,” said DiFiore.
The U.S. attorney’s office issued the following statement: “Consistent with our office’s practices in cases of this kind, we will review all of the available evidence with respect to the death of Kenneth Chamberlain, including the evidence collected during the state’s investigation, to determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws.”
McLaughlin said that the Chamberlain family would cooperate fully with the U.S. attorney’s office as they proceed to review the evidence against Carelli. “We are hopeful that when the U.S. attorney’s office looks at this case that they will come to the same conclusion that we did,” he added.
However, Carelli’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, said he was “confident that if they conduct a thorough, fair and unbiased investigation that they will reach the same conclusion as the Westchester County grand jury, which is that Officer Carelli’s actions were justified.”
On Monday, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. met with the White Plains Common Council, which voted for an independent review of the shooting and the city’s police department.
“I’m asking that you strongly recommend [to Public Safety Commissioner David Chong] that any and all officers named at this point and time be suspended pending the outcome of this federal investigation,” Chamberlain told the council.