About two dozen supporters of a former Marine gunned down by White Plains police following a two-hour standoff at his apartment door gathered outside the Westchester County Courthouse on Wednesday to protest a city-commissioned report that exonerated police officials involved in the shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.
"This has been a cover-up from day one," said Randolph McLaughlin, a lawyer representing the family in its federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city. "This report is continuation of that cover-up."
Last week, a panel appointed by the city released a report that cleared the police involved in the Nov. 19, 2011, shooting death of Chamberlain, 68, a former Marine and correction officer who was shot dead following a standoff at his apartment door in the Winbrook Public Houses. White Plains police officers responded to his apartment when Chamberlain's medical alert device accidentally was activated.
A grand jury in May cleared the involved police officers of criminal wrongdoing, and Chamberlain's family has filed a $21 million lawsuit. Police say Chamberlain was drunk, combative and brandished a hatchet when officers tried to break down his door. The officers, the family countered, shot Chamberlain with a Taser and used racial slurs before breaking down his front door and shooting him.
The 83-page-long study was authored by four criminal justice professors. It was based on four months of research and interviews with police and police brass, but not witnesses to the actual shooting or civilians who have dealt with police. The city paid $25,000 for the study.
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach said the study made good on an earlier promise to conduct "an in-depth review of all aspects of the department, including training, policies and procedures." He said the department would work to implement some of the changes suggested by the study.
But McLaughlin, a Pace University Law School professor and partner at Newman-Ferrara LLP, said the report accentuated the need for an independent review by the U.S. attorney's office.
"How they can spend only 11 paragraphs in an 83-page report on the shooting and not interview any of the officers involved is beyond me," he said. "We'll see what happens if the Department of Justice comes in here. Then (the city) will have problems."
Federal prosecutors are in the process of reviewing the case to determine whether they will open a criminal investigation into possible civil rights violations in the case.