The Rev. Calvin O. Butts put his voice behind the family of slain White Plainsresident Kenneth Chamberlain on Sunday, calling the killing “yet another racially charged murder of an African-American man.”
Speaking in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he is pastor, the minister said Chamberlain, killed in his home by White Plains police, would not be forgotten.
“We will not let this go,” he said.
He mentioned Chamberlain several times throughout the 11 a.m. service, attended by about 1,000 people, including many visitors. About a dozen members of the Chamberlain family occupied three central pews.
Butts likened the death of Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former correction officer and Marine, to the cases of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black Florida teenager fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, and Ramarley Graham, a black Bronx teenager who was shot dead in his home by police.
After the service, Chamberlain family members and their lawyers continued to call for justice in the case at a news conference.
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. said attention to the case is growing.
“Finally, it seems as if people are paying attention, and they’re saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” he said, stopping to struggle with tears. “My father is not here anymore. … I refuse to mourn him until there is some justice for my father. And when I say that, I mean indictments. Criminal indictments.”
The family and its lawyers have held community meetings to keep up the profile of the case. Chamberlain was slain Nov. 19 after an hour standoff with police. Officers had gone to his apartment when his medical alert device went off, apparently by accident.
Police Commissioner David Chong has said Chamberlain attacked officers with a hatchet and a knife and ignored orders to drop the weapons.
Randolph McLaughlin, a lawyer for the family, said Sunday that Chamberlain had his hands at his sides when he was killed and that he was “presenting a threat to no one.”
Chong did not return a call to his cellphone Sunday.
Some of the incident was recorded in an audio recording through a telephone connected to the life alert device and on video. Lawyers for the family said an officer can be heard on the audio cursing at Chamberlain and calling him a racial epithet.
McLaughlin said last week that city Police Officer Steven Hart shouted the racial slur at Chamberlain Sr. Hart is also named in a civil lawsuit alleging police brutality brought by a man who said he was slammed to the ground during an arrest more than a year ago.
Chong has confirmed that Officer Anthony Carelli fired the shots that killed Chamberlain. Carelli and other officers are defendants in another police brutality lawsuit in U.S. District Court in White Plains, which includes claims that he used racial slurs. Carelli has denied the allegations.
Also lending support to the family Sunday was actress Ruby Dee, a member of the church, whose son-in-law is a lawyer for the family.
McLaughlin said he believed a grand jury was expected to finish hearing testimony in the first week of May. He said if criminal charges do not come from the incident, he would call for an investigation of the entire White Plains police force.