STATEMENT BY WESTCHESTER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY JANET DIFIORE REGARDING THE GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION

INTO THE OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING IN THE CITY OF WHITE PLAINS

ON NOVEMBER 19TH, 2011

 

 

 

 

The Westchester County grand jury has completed its work in connection with the tragic shooting death of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. by a White Plains Police Officer during the early morning hours of November 19, 2011. The shooting occurred inside Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment at 135 South Lexington Avenue, White Plains, New York.

 

After an exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury, which began hearing testimony on April 11, 2012, concluded its work on May 2, 2012.

 

Under New York law, the grand jury’s proceedings are secret and only upon a showing of “a compelling and particularized need for access” can disclosure of grand jury information be made*.

 

In this case the District Attorney moved for an order of the court that empanelled the grand jury sitting in this matter, and, upon demonstrating a compelling and particularized need the court has permitted the information contained in this statement (and only this information) to be disclosed.

 

The investigation into Mr. Chamberlain’s death on November 19, 2011 commenced immediately.

 

Video and audio electronic recordings from several different sources which captured a substantial portion of the events immediately preceding Mr. Chamberlain’s death were obtained and preserved as evidence for the grand jury. The extensive investigation included numerous interviews of family members, civilians, police officers and expert witnesses.  Evidence was collected from the scene and forensically analyzed by experts in ballistics, DNA, toxicology, and audio-video enhancement. 

 

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*Criminal Procedure Law 190.25(4)(a) provides that the Grand Jury proceedings are secret and a strong presumption of confidentiality attaches to the record of Grand Jury proceedings. This presumption must be overcome by a demonstration of “a compelling and particularized need for access” to the Grand Jury material (Matter of District Attorney of Suffolk County, 58 NY2d 436). Upon such a demonstration, the court must then balance the public interest for disclosure against the public interest favoring secrecy.

The investigation was conducted by a number of different law enforcement agencies that included criminal investigators from the Westchester County District Attorneys Office, the White Plains Police Department, members of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety’s Forensic Identification Unit, the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research.

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In connection with the grand jury proceedings:

 

           The audio and video electronic recordings made during the incident were played in their entirety for the grand jury. Among those recordings admitted into evidence were the audio recordings from the medical alert agency, Life Station, which recorded their operators’ communications with Mr. Chamberlain during the incident, as well as communications between the police and Mr. Chamberlain, and between the operators from Life Station and members of Mr. Chamberlain’s family. These audio recordings also captured all verbal activity occurring within range of the microphone located inside the Chamberlain apartment. Also admitted into evidence were the audio and video recordings made by the Taser used by a police officer and which captured events before and during its discharge. The evidence also included the audio recordings of the police transmissions during the incident, police communications with operators at Life Station and police communications with a family member. Video from the Housing Authority was also admitted into evidence.

 

           The grand jury heard testimony from 42 witnesses.  Of the 42 witnesses, 21 were civilians.  They included family members of Mr. Chamberlain who testified as to their contacts with the police and the medical alert company, Life Station, during the incident; a corporate officer and the telephone operators from Life Station, who were communicating with Mr. Chamberlain and the police during the incident; personnel from the local ambulance company who were present at the scene; and medical personnel, including the emergency room physician who examined Mr. Chamberlain at the hospital immediately after the shooting. Other civilian witnesses included residents in the apartment building.

 

           Police personnel who testified included the police officers who initially responded to the medical alert call to Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment and the police officers who responded afterwards.  The police officer who discharged a Taser gun and the police officer who discharged a shotgun loaded with bean bags at Mr. Chamberlain both testified. The police officer who fired the fatal shot also testified.  All three of these police officers testified without the protection of immunity from prosecution.

 

           Members of the White Plains Fire Department who responded to the medical alert also testified.

 

           More than 100 exhibits were admitted into evidence before the grand jury.  Included among the exhibits were ballistic evidence, photographs, and video surveillance images from the security cameras located in the lobby outside Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment at 135 South Lexington Avenue. The weapons recovered from the scene were also admitted into evidence.  There was testimony from additional police officers in connection with the collection and introduction of physical evidence.   

 

           Expert testimony was elicited from a ballistics expert, forensic scientists, including DNA and toxicology experts, and a forensic photographer from the Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research.  There was also testimony from the Westchester County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on Mr. Chamberlain.

 

           The death of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. inside his apartment in connection with his encounter with White Plains police officers on Nov. 19, 2011 was a tragedy on many levels.  The grand jury heard all the evidence on the use of physical force and deadly physical force by the police in this encounter. The grand jury also heard the evidence of the threatened use of deadly physical force by Mr. Chamberlain during the encounter. As required by law, the grand jury was instructed on the defense of justification under Article 35 of the Penal Law as to the use of force and deadly physical force by the police. After due deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment.

 

 

We would like to thank the 23 citizens of Westchester County who comprised the grand jury in this matter for their service, for the time and effort they devoted to this investigation, and for the careful manner in which they discharged their solemn duty.