Civil Liberties

Deadly LifeAid

Helping a man to death


Early on the morning of November 19, Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former Marine and retired correctional officer with a heart condition, accidentally set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant while sleeping in his White Plains, New York, apartment. Unable to contact Chamberlain via its two-way audio box, LifeAid called the White Plains Department of Public Safety. Police officers arrived to help Chamberlain 17 minutes later. Instead they ended up killing him.

When a bleary and annoyed Chamberlain, speaking through his door, told the officers he was fine, they insisted on coming in anyway. According to the official police report, officers "heard loud noises inside and thought someone else might be in danger." 

According to Chamberlain's son and the family's lawyers, police camera footage shows that when the cops finally forced their way in, about an hour after they arrived, Chamberlain was standing, unarmed, in his boxer shorts. Yet the cops immediately Tasered the man with a heart condition they had come to help, and later Officer Anthony Carelli shot him in the chest—a moment the cameras missed. An autopsy showed that the bullet entered through Chamberlain's upper right arm and lodged in his right lung, where it caused the internal bleeding that killed him.

Police said Chamberlain threatened them with a knife, and White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong deemed the shooting a "warranted use of deadly force." In April, after months of complaints from Chamberlain's relatives and their supporters, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced that she would present the case to a grand jury. A month later, DiFiore said the grand jury had found insufficient basis for criminal charges against any of the officers.