Kenneth Chamberlain, of 135 S. Lexington Ave., died at White Plains Hospital two hours after the incident, which occurred shortly after 5 a.m. when police answered a 911 report of a person in distress.
When police arrived at Chamberlain’s first-floor apartment in the Winbrook housing complex, “they heard screaming and voices coming from inside,” Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said.
Chamberlain would not open the door and, unsure whether anyone else was inside who might be in danger, police called for backup and began breaking down the door. Chong said the heavy metal door was double locked and took officers some time to open.
At one point, Chong said, “a hatchet came through a gap in the doorway and swung at the officers trying to open the door.”
By then, a tactical team and hostage negotiator had arrived on the scene. One officer managed to grab the hatchet, but when police got the door open and went inside, Chamberlain came at them with a butcher knife, Chong said.
The officers backed up and repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, but Chong said Chamberlain ignored them and continued to move forward.
“The officers used nonlethal measures to try and incapacitate him, but he kept coming,” Chong said.
Police said Chamberlain was shot with a Taser gun, which did not slow him down, and then was shot four times in the legs and abdomen with beanbags from a shotgun, but continued to slash at officers with the knife until one officer shot him twice with his .40-caliber semiautomatic service weapon.
When police and ambulance workers tried to give Chamberlain first aid, “he continued to slash away at them,” Chong said. “At one point he tried to slash his own throat.”
Once disarmed and subdued, Chamberlain was rushed by ambulance to White Plains Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:09 a.m. Police said no one else was in the apartment.
The officer who fatally shot Chamberlain, an eight-year police veteran assigned to the neighborhood conditions unit, was not identified. Chong said he was taken to White Plains Hospital after suffering chest pains and that he and four other officers were being treated at the hospital for trauma.
“He’s a good officer with an exemplary record and has never fired in the line of duty,” Chong said.
Chong said Chamberlain “is known to our department” but would not elaborate. He said police are working with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office to “conduct a thorough investigation into this incident.
“From what we know so far, we feel that all department guidelines were followed,” Chong said.
He said an autopsy will be performed by the Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office to determine whether Chamberlain had been drinking or taking drugs.
In 1993, Chamberlain and a woman were accused of taking cash and belongings from an 85-year-old woman. He was charged with third-degree possession of stolen property, a felony. In court proceedings, attorneys said the woman was a user of crack cocaine. The outcome of that case was not available.
The last shooting involving a White Plains police officer took place in May 1999 when alleged bank robber Rexton McKrieth of New Rochelle was killed in a shootout with Officer Michael Harrington, who was following him after the robbery of a Fleet bank. After getting caught in rush-hour traffic on the Mamaroneck Avenue ramp to the Hutchinson River Parkway, McKrieth exchanged shots with Harrington as panicked commuters looked on. An autopsy revealed that none of Harrington’s shots hit McKrieth, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Word of Saturday’s shooting sparked anger and suspicion in the largely black neighborhood.
Charlie Williams, an acquaintance and neighbor, said he believed Chamberlain had once worked as a correction officer for Westchester County.
“He stuck to himself. He’d go about his business. I can’t understand how they (police) would do something like that,” said Williams, a retired construction worker. “Too many questions. Beanbag, Taser — and then shoot him?”
Other neighbors said Chamberlain had two adult children. He had worked as a bus driver and appeared to have health issues and respiratory problems.
Another acquaintance, Kim Glenn, said she heard a commotion in the early morning hours and believed she heard Chamberlain yelling — “I know my rights” — and refusing entry into the apartment. It appeared a woman had left the apartment earlier, she said.
“They used excessive force. He was a good guy. He was old and not that spry,” she said. “We lose another one of our own.”
Law-enforcement officials came and went from the apartment all day as onlookers talked on the street.
and Robert Marchant
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