Friday, April 6, 2012

Former Marine Shot Dead In His Own Home By Police

This past November a 68 year old former Marine named Kenneth Chamberlain accidentally set off his medical alert necklace in the middle of the night.  Police responded to the emergency, knowing that it was a medical check-in, yet somehow Chamberlain ended up being shot and killed by the police.

When the police arrived Chamberlain refused to open the door but told the officers that he was fine and that he set off the alarm by accident.  For some reason that wasn't enough.  The police demanded that he open the door.  At one point the door was cracked open slightly, enough so that officers could see Chamberlain but they still demanded that the door be opened.  Chamberlain refused.  The officers took the door off the hinges and shot Chamberlain with a Taser.  That must not have worked because they then shot him with a beanbag shotgun.  Eventually things escalated to the point where Chamberlain was shot with a regular gun and killed.

The intriguing thing about this case is that the majority of the altercation was captured on audio and/or video.  The medical alert company makes an audio recording whenever a client sets off the alarm.  Apparently the majority of the entire incident was audio recorded.  Also, the Taser that the police used was equipped with a camera so there is quite a bit of footage from that as well.  Unfortunately for us neither of these recordings has been made public.  To add even more layers to the case people who have heard the audio say that the police called Chamberlain a racial slur and even mocked the fact that Chamberlain was a Marine.  During the confrontation Chamberlain can be heard saying "Semper Fi" to which one of the officers made a wisecrack remark.  Another troubling issue is that there is a record of the medical company telling police dispatch to cancel the call for an ambulance because Chamberlain reported that everything was ok (I assume this occured before the police showed up).  I read one report where the police dispatch informed the officers that the ambulance had been called off yet they still carried on.

Of course until the tapes are released or this case goes to trial all of this is pure speculation.  So far we've only heard what family members allege that they heard when they were allowed to listen to/view the tapes and the official police response to the story.  I'm guessing that this was a hostile confrontation.  Chamberlain may have even been being difficult.  But that does not give the police the right to bust down a private citizens door and shoot him!

While this is a tragedy that deserves discussion here on our class blog I actually have ulterior motives writing about this story.  There was a recent blog post by another student blasting the media for over-sensationalizing certain stories.  After reading the post I came away feeling that the author felt that the media puts law enforcement officers and the justice system in an unfavorable light all too often.  I wanted to write a blog countering that point.  Law enforcement is also known for using the media to their advantage.  I've seen my local media call all sorts of crimes "gang related" when I'm almost certain that they are not.  I've also noticed that when the police are involved in a controversy they will use the media to paint the accused citizen, or victim, out to be a savage.  Or they lie.  In Chamberlain's case they're saying that he attacked the officer with a knife.  I've also heard that he attacked them with a hatchet!  The hatched thing sounds so far fetched to me because Chamberlain lived in a housing project in White Plains, New York.  I suppose that it is not beyond the realm of possibility but I have never met anyone from the projects who owned a hatchet!

I think that the fact that the police department didn't release the name of the officer who shot Chamberlain until just this week is telling.  Especially since that officer is set to go on trial later this month for a 2008 incident where he beat up two Jordanian brothers and called them "rag heads."



  1. This kind of conduct is NOT okay! After Chamberlain said that everything was okay and it was an accident, that should have been the end of it. Furthermore, police should have NEVER used force in the first place. There was no need for the gun, bean bag gun, or taser for that matter. I really hope that the police who are responsible for this death are held accountable for their actions...this sort of thing should not be happening. The fact that this man was a marine is also troubling; you would think that they would have some kind of connection in that aspect but I guess not. But like you said, we do not know the whole story, we only know what the media says so maybe there is some kind of justification behind their actions but from what I can tell, there is not.

  2. Unfortunatley the media does take anything they can and create a new story until it fulfills there personal likes. The media can be extremely two faced when it comes to the crimianl justice system. Look at the ever popular Trayvon Martin, and Zimmerman case, multiple news channels released stories of the calls to 911, which was edited to make ZImmerman the bad guy (whoever you choose to believe, I don't care) but that shows how arrogant the media can be. It can be beneficial at times but can also destroy who you are.

    As for the conduct, it was completely unnecessary to use a tazer and a beanbag gun on a 68 year old man. IF two young police officers can't seize or detain a 68 year old man, then they need to go back to McDonald's and flip patties because that is absolutely ridiculous that the police would even think to do that to a 68 year old man.

  3. I couldn't agree more with your healthy skepticism for media reports on the police. I dont think the use of force could be warranted for the situation the officers faced. An old man accidently activating his life alert hardly seems like a situation where ANY force would be needed. I wonder what went wrong. The positive aspect of this is that there is documentation through video and audio. These pieces of evidence don't lie and the police will not be able to use the media to cover their tracks.

  4. Wow this is a crazy story, I don't understand why shooting him was an option, when they used the taser and the beanbag shut gun. The man was 68 years old the taser should of done the job, if they could not have detain him, then they need to go back to training because thats ridiculous. There was no reason why the police showed up when Chamberlain told them that everything was okay and it was an accident.

  5. I heard about this case, and it is a shame, not only because I have served 8 years in the Marine Corps, but because nobody deserves to be treated in such a manner. That being said, the alleged actions of the police officers in this case represents a minority of the police officers in the United States, not the majority. Yes, there are plenty of cases in which poor training and racial profiling can be blamed for the actions of police officers, but I do not think that a case like this represents a sample size of police officers that should create an outright panic of the general populace. If the alleged actions of these officers is found to be fact, they will pay for their actions with their jobs and more than likely prison time.

    1. Another case that I have heard about with involving a former Marine and a potentially wrongful shooting by police can be found here:

      Yes, the Marine had a gun, but his house was being ambushed for no apparent reason and he had no clue who it was. He was attempting to protect his family in a bad neighborhood. Initially, the officers that stormed the house said that he had fired his weapon. Upon investigation, it was found that when he was killed, his weapon was on safe and he never fired his weapon.