– ‘Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?’ (New York Times, Mar 5, 2012):
The niece stood in the darkened stairwell of the Winbrook Houses, listening, as 20 feet away five police officers yelled at her uncle, who had locked himself in his apartment.
It was 5:25 on a chill November morning. The officers banged loud and hard, demanding that her 68-year-old uncle open his door.
“He was begging them to leave him alone,” she recalls. “He sounded scared.” She pulls her shawl about her shoulders and her voice cracks; she is speaking for the first time about what she saw. “I heard my uncle yelling, ‘Officers, officers, why do you have your guns out?’ ”
The string of events that night sounds prosaic, a who-cares accumulation of little mistakes and misapprehensions. Cumulatively, though, it is like tumbling down the stairs. Somehow the uncle, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a former Marine who had heart problems and wheezed if he walked more than 40 feet, triggered his medical alert system pendant. The system operator came on the loudspeaker in his one-bedroom apartment, asking: “Mr. Chamberlain, are you O.K.?” All of this is recorded.
Mr. Chamberlain didn’t respond. So the operator signaled for an ambulance. Police patrol cars fell in behind — standard operating procedure in towns across America. Except an hour later, even as Mr. Chamberlain insisted he was in good health, the police had snapped the locks on the apartment door.
They fired electric charges from Tasers, and beanbags from shotguns. Then they said they saw Mr. Chamberlain grab a knife, and an officer fired his handgun.
Boom! Boom! Mr. Chamberlain’s niece Tonyia Greenhill, who lives upstairs, recalls the echoes ricocheting about the hall. She pushed out a back door and ran into the darkness beneath overarching oaks. He lay on the floor near his kitchen, two bullet holes in his chest, blood pooling thick, dying.
Read more68-Year-Old Man Killed By Cops In His Own Home After Accidentally Triggering His Medical Alert System