The New York Daily News by Juan Gonzalez, Janon Fisher, Rich Schapiro and Helen Kennedy - April 4, 2012
Exclusive: At center of controversial Nov. 19 shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., cop also to go to trial in unrelated brutality and racism case
A White Plains cop who shot and killed a retired Marine in his home almost five months ago is about to go on trial for brutality and racism in an unrelated federal case, the Daily News has learned. Two sources with knowledge of the investigation identified Officer Anthony Carelli as the shooter in the Nov. 19 killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Westchester County authorities, including the police and the district attorney’s office, have kept the cop’s name a secret — even as interest grew in the case and relatives demanded an investigation. A grand jury will begin hearing evidence next week to determine if the cops committed a crime. Chamberlain, 68, died after cops responding to a medical-alert misfire insisted on entering his apartment, although he said he was fine and yelled at them to go away. They took his door down, Tasered him and blasted him with a beanbag gun. Then Carelli shot him twice in the chest. Police officials haven’t said whether Carelli, who has been on the force six years, was stripped of his gun or disciplined after the shooting. Supervisors soon after the shooting said the cops’ actions fell within police guidelines. Police say Chamberlain, a black Marine among whose last words were “semper fi,” came at them with a knife. A racial slur made by one of the officers during the nearly 90-minute standoff was recorded by the medical alert company’s two-way call box. One source told The News that Carelli was not the officer who uttered the slur. That officer never entered the apartment, the source said.
Carelli is going on trial later this month in a $10 million civil suit brought by twin brothers who say he battered them during a disorderly-conduct arrest outside the Black Bear Saloon in downtown White Plains during Memorial Day weekend 2008. Jereis (Jerry) Hatter and Salameh (Sal) Hatter, 27, claim Carelli was the most brutal of the six officers who beat and kicked them while they were handcuffed, calling them “rag heads.” Their parents are Jordanian immigrants. The brothers say Carelli beat Jereis Hatter with a billy club, causing head and eye injuries, while he was handcuffed to a pole in the booking area of the police station. “He hit me in my eye with a nightstick and then he kicked me in my nuts,” Jereis Hatter told The News on Wednesday. “He shouldn’t be a cop.” All charges against the Hatter brothers were dismissed last August by a judge who complained that testimony about the boozy night in question resembled a “Quentin Tarantino script” because everyone had a different version of what happened. The brothers sued Carelli, several other officers and the City of White Plains, alleging excessive force and federal civil rights violations. The suit says the city “failed to train its employees to control their tempers” and “use force prudently.” In a 2010 deposition, Carelli said Jereis Hatter hit his own head against the plastic partition in the police car “several” times on the way to the police station. Asked what he did then, Carelli said, “I told him to stop banging his head.” Carelli claimed that once inside Police Headquarters, Jereis Hatter “became belligerent . . . twisting his body in an attempt to move, to get away from me. He said both men tumbled to ground, with Carelli having to pin Jereis Hatter until more officers arrived to help restrain him. Jereis Hatter and his brother say Carelli beat Jereis with a nightstick, then threw him to the ground and pummeled him while calling him a “rag head.” Carelli said in his sworn deposition that Jereis Hatter had no visible signs of injury to his face. A photo taken by Jereis’ lawyer after the arrest shows his face was battered. Carelli could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A man who said he was Carelli’s brother answered the door at Carelli’s house in Harrison, Westchester County, and told The News, “So I assume his name leaked out today? Lovely.” Carelli attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice for two years and joined the force in 2004 at age 21. In the 2010 deposition, he said he’d made about 250 to 300 arrests as a police officer. The Chamberlain case has attracted increasing attention since the racially charged furor over the Feb. 26 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Police were dispatched to Chamberlain’s apartment at 5 a.m. on Nov. 19 because the medical alert pendant he wore for a chronic heart problem went off, likely by accident while he slept. The LifeAid company called police after Chamberlain failed to respond to a two-way audiobox installed in his apartment.
What was supposed to be a mission of mercy went horribly wrong.
According to Chamberlain’s family, he was startled by the police visit, leading to a standoff. The Chamberlain family’s lawyer says the medical alert system’s two-way intercom recorded the sounds of what occurred in the apartment. There was also video from a security camera in the building and a camera attached to the police stun gun. Authorities eventually removed the door from its hinges and found Chamberlain clad only in his boxers. His family says his hands were empty when he was shot. Chamberlain was arrested 20 years ago in the Bronx for possession of a controlled substance and sale of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to possession and was sentenced to time served. Neighbors said cops were often called to Chamberlain’s first-floor apartment in the middle of the night to respond to his screams from inside. “I heard several times the police coming there and trying to calm him down,” said a 36-year-old mom who lives on the second floor of the nine-story apartment building. “He would scream bad words and he would say he was going to kill himself,” she said. “The police were always coming to him to make sure he’s okay.” It got so bad, she said, that her young daughter “would wake up and sleep with me because she would hear the screaming.” At first, the commotion on the night of Nov. 19 sounded like more of the same, she said. “I heard him say, ‘I'm going to kill myself.’ I heard a policeman say, ‘I just want to see your face and then I’ll go away,’ ” she said. “They were (there) for like an hour, and he was screaming really, really bad,” she said. A man who lives across the hall said he heard lots of yelling and Chamberlain saying over and over that he was okay. “He kept telling them he was all right. They kept knocking and wanting to get into his apartment. They were determined to keep knocking on the door to make sure they could see he was all right,” said the man, who did not give his name. He said he was on the verge of going into the hallway to tell the cops to leave his neighbor alone. “Next thing I know, they are taking the hinges off the door,” he said. “They broke into the man’s house. The home is a man's castle. You're invading his castle,” he said. “The bottom line is, they were wrong to go knocking the man’s door down.” With Benjamin Lesser - firstname.lastname@example.org