WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A jury on Thursday rejected a $21 million wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a mentally ill black man who accidentally set off his medical alert device and then was fatally shot by a white police officer who showed up at his home.
The jurors deliberated for about a day before rejecting the case brought by the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. against White Plains Officer Anthony Carelli and the city, just north of New York City.
Chamberlain's family insisted the shooting was racially motivated. Outside court, Chamberlain's son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., blasted the verdict, saying "it's very clear that the judge gave the city of White Plains the license to kill with impunity."
"We will keep fighting, and I believe justice will be served," said Chamberlain Jr., who had earlier called his father a victim of "systematic racism" by law enforcement.
The family's attorney, Randolph McLaughlin, said he planned to file a notice of appeal.
"Mr. Chamberlain Sr.'s humanity has been ignored by every part of our legal system from the police to the (district attorney) and now the federal court," McLaughlin said in a statement.
The deadly 2011 encounter at Chamberlain's apartment was a precursor to the national debate over use of force by police in communities of color and in response to calls involving emotionally disturbed people. The Chamberlain family's lawsuit went forward after a grand jury declined to indict the officer.
Lawyers for Carelli and White Plains insisted the shooting was justified, saying the officer used deadly force only as a last resort.
At the time of the shooting, Chamberlain was living alone and was suffering from bipolar disorder, arthritis and respiratory illness, conditions that prompted his family to give him a LifeAid medical alert device in case he needed help.
On Nov. 19, 2011, Chamberlain, a former Marine Corps veteran, accidentally set off the alert, prompting police to go to his door. During a confrontation, authorities said, officers used a stun gun and a bean bag weapon to try to subdue him before shooting him.
Carelli testified he "had no other option" but to shoot Chamberlain because he believed Chamberlain was about to harm a police sergeant.