Encore: November 19, 2021

In The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, executive producer and actor Morgan Freeman exposes the excessive and brutal force too often executed by the police in their response to emergency calls and non-threatening situations. The film follows the 2011 fatal shooting of a 68-year-old African American military veteran, Kenneth Chamberlain by police in White Plains, NY. Living with a bi-polar disorder and a heart condition, Chamberlain’s medical alert device mistakenly activated when officers were dispatched to his home. But this accidental call to help quickly became a call for help when despite informing them that there’d been a mistake and no emergency, the situation quickly escalated towards a point of no return. The cops were recorded taunting him, ridiculing his military service and howling racial epithets at him. Eventually, they broke down his door and shot him dead. Tonight, the star of the film Frankie Faison, along with activist, son and namesake of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., join us with the timely tale of this tragic case, the inside story of one family’s legal fight for justice and the community who rallied to their side.


Good evening and welcome to Metro Focus.

I'm Jenna Flanagan.

Ten years ago, Kenneth Chamberlain, an elderly black man from White Plains, New York, was shot and killed in his own apartment by White Plains police officers.

The police were notified after Mr. Chamberlain's Life Alert monitor accidentally went off.

And a little more than an hour and a half later, Mr. Chamberlain, a former Marine and corrections officer who struggled with a heart condition and psychiatric issues, was shot dead in his home.

Now, 10 years later, as Mr. Chamberlain's family is still fighting for justice, a new film titled The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain tells the tragic and yet true story.

Mr. Chamberlain's death.

Here's a quick preview.

Mr. Chamberlain, this is Candace Wade, lifeguard medical alert, this line is being reported.

We just received an activation from your band and to have an emergency.

I'm not getting a response from you.

I'm going to dispatch emergency services now.

I believe we're here for a welfare check.

You are not coming to my home.

Help me, help me I need help And joining me now to discuss the film and the heartbreaking events that it depicts is Frankie Faison, the star of the film, The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, who plays Mr. Chamberlain in the film Frankie.

Welcome to Metro Focus.

Thank you so much for having me.

And we're also joined tonight by Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. He is the son of Mr. Chamberlain and a police reform activist, Kenneth.

Welcome to Metro Focus.

Thank you.

Thank you for having me.

So I want to start, Kenneth, by asking you if you could sort of help the audience understand who was the Chamberlain senior as your dad.

I always tell people when when this question has always been asked and they'll say, who?

Who is Kenneth Chamberlain?


He was my first super hero.

He was the one that no matter if I had a problem, I could bring out the dad.

And he was the fixer.

He he would take care of it for me.

He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, and he was a man.

Then on November 19, 2011, what happened to him should have never have happened.

Of course, and frankly for you, how did you first hear about this story and what was it that made you want to get involved with the telling of this story?

Well, I was presented the script by my manager and he said that they they were interested in having me play this role of Kenneth Chamberlain in this film, The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.. I mean, Kenneth Chamberlain.

Kenneth Chamberlain.


And I read it and immediately I responded to it because I just felt there was something in there that I wanted to explore as an actor, and I accepted the role.

And next thing I knew, I was out in the suburbs of Chicago and we began filming this project.

I had no prior knowledge of who Kenneth Chamberlain was or his situation.

The only thing I had was a film script and the conversations that I had with the director, David Mardell.

So the reason why I wanted to start with those two questions was so often and unfortunately, America has been just filled with so many stories that are very similar to this.

But we only hear about the story in terms of the death that took place and what led up to that.

And was it a crime or was it not?

We don't really get a chance to understand the human being that was whose life was ended.

So for you, I wanted to know, frankly, what was it that you wanted to make sure that you brought to this film, to the character of The Real Man?

That's the most resounding and important question and and thing that I wanted to accomplish in this film was to humanize Kenneth Chamberlain so people could see who this man was rather than being just another victim of misconduct by law enforcement.

So, I mean, all of those things are things that were important to me.

The conversation that he has with family members, the way he carries himself in his apartment, because this is the first time I think you're actually getting a chance to see the victim a couple of hours prior to his death.

And it was just one of the most important thing for me was to portray someone up there that they could look at and say, wow, that was a man.

That was man when he was a good man.

He had some good qualities.

He loved his family.

You know, he got around and manage his affairs.

He was a he was he was a Marine, you know, he was he's he's that that is character.

Because then what people see is that it'll be a lot more mean.

And I think.

And kind of for you, what was what first of all, not only what was that like seeing those last hours of your father's life dramatized on screen, but again, the importance of communicating that he was more than just a police blotter statistic.

This was a human being.

This was a dad.

And as you said, your superhero well.

When you raise that question at first and Franki and answer it, the first thing I could think about was the police narrative of what happened to my father that day.

And they put this narrative about the immediately police shoot and kill hatchet wielding man.

Which was far from the truth.

They didn't say they were responding to a medical emergency that went wrong.

They they they put that out there to have the people believe that my father was just this dangerous man that was out there committing a crime and they had to stop them.

But looking at the film, watching and I've seen it several times, you know, every time I look at it, the same thing happens.

The tears start to fall from my eyes.

It's reliving it over and over and over again as I tell people you're watching a film.

But this is my reality.

This is what my family and I deal with every single day because there's no closure, because we're still battling a city that refuses to admit any type of wrongdoing.

Well, and I do want to get into where the court case stands with all of this, but back to the film, it opens with an incredibly powerful quote, depending on who you are, the site of an officer can produce either a warm sense of safety and contentment or a plummeting fear, a feeling of terror.

So, Kenneth, for you, I want to start and just ask why.

What does that mean to you?

Why was it important that that's the way that this film opens?

Because people have to understand that race and class play a role in how you're treated by law enforcement.

Case in point is, if just a couple of blocks up the street is a more affluent neighborhood than the neighborhood that my father lived in when the police arrived there, they treat the people in that neighborhood differently.

My father's neighborhood has a high crime rate.

I'm not going to try to act like it doesn't.

But they treat the individuals.

They're totally different.

And, of course, you know, it's our skin color.

So it's important that people understand that.

When you see police based on your experiences, it can determine how you perceive them.

I mean, I myself have been walking down the street minding my business, and they've had police officers jump out on me, ask for identification.

And when I try to get some clarity as to why you want, I'm being told to shut up and just give them the I.D., you know, so it's very important that people see that type of quote just because it's setting the tone and it's making people say, OK, we know what we're about to expect when we when we see this film.

Thank you.

I want to take that same quote and pose it to you, except with the question of some people might hear that at the top of the film.

Let's just be frank and say other African-Americans and say that's overkill.

I completely understand that.

Why, from your perspective, is it necessary to really drive home the point that there are two very different experiences that a lot of people have when it comes to interacting with police departments?

Yeah, well, there are at least two, but as my wife Samantha often said, says to me in occasions, he said, Frankie, there's a way that police treat other people.

And then there is you being that because I'm somewhat visible as a celebrity, even though I am black, I am treated with a complete a complete different interest from the police.

I've never had a bad experience with the police.

And whenever I'm stopped by the police or maybe if I'm getting a ticket or something, it's always I can I can maybe can I get an autograph?

How are you?

But you know, which is not right.

But so in this film, I mean, the quote in the beginning of the film, as Kenneth said, you know, like it because his father was in a in a in an environment where there is drugs and crime and all of that.

Immediately when police officers approaches building, there's a red flag that goes up and there they have to take a completely different stance that they are much more unrelaxed than they would be a normal going to the apartments down the street that the very affluent because you don't feel a threat there, although there is a preeminent threat anywhere behind any door.

Once you're a law enforcement officer and I wish the rules apply to everyone the same, but they don't.

So that's that's the way that that goes.

Well, frankly speaking of which apartment that the police are responding to the movie and a lot of ways almost feels like a play because so much of it, it almost entirely takes place within Mr. Chamberlain's apartment.

And so I'm wondering, again, from your perspective as an actor and a storyteller, what's the impact of presenting the story that way that you're with him in his face as the story unfolds?

Oh, it's completely it's the thing that made made the performance.

As far as I'm concerned.

I'm a very I come from theater.

That's my background.

And that's that's doing this film was like doing a play in a lot of ways.

It was very theatrical in order for me to be in that apartment, to be able to touch those things as his oxygen tank, the couch and to see the kitchen, to see the knife, to take all of those things made it.

They were such that they were other players on that screen, as far as I'm concerned.

And they were also items that gave a clue as to who this man, Kenneth Chamberlain, was, because that was his environment.

You didn't see any plus lush, you know, luxurious things like fancy toaster ovens and coffee machines that make coffee and luxurious couches.

You saw a working class, low class, underprivileged kind of environment, although it was you know, as far as I'm concerned, it was sustained.

And in this best way, as a man in the street under any circumstances could do so.

That was that's a very good question.

And I really appreciate being able to answer that.

Oh, well, you're absolutely welcome.

It's incredibly powerful performance.

But Kenneth, I want to go back to you and say that in the film, of course, we witnessed the White Plains Police Department not only use excessive force against your father, but also break the law using racial slurs, things of that nature for people who might be surprised or shocked that in 2011, when this took place in what is by a lot of people's accounts, a liberal state like New York, that this would be taking place, what is it that you would want people to better understand about the White Plains community where your father lived?

That that's a good question.

You know, I can remember a time I'm not going to say that the city of White Plains.

Didn't ever have any type of racism or anything going on, but I can remember a time when White Plains was almost like a little town where everybody knew everybody and then all of a sudden they started building in these big buildings, started coming in, and they started bringing in in the law enforcement higher and law enforcement from other cities.

And they didn't live in White Plains.

So you don't know the communities and you don't know the people.

So your interactions with them are different.

The city of White Plains is very.

It's very tricky, I guess the best thing that I can say, but they are very powerful city because.

For nearly a decade now, they have made every attempt to keep the killing of my father unknown.

They don't want people to know about it.

They've been trying to hide it and have been successful because I don't have the resources to really fight them on the level that someone who who did have resources could.

So I have to really rely on being very strategic when dealing with them, but.

I can remember being in a town hall and the question was posed to the commissioner of the White Plains Police Department and someone said, do you believe that racism exists in this city and do you believe that it exists in your department?

And that officer looked at us and said, no.

And and we knew then that there's no way in the world we can work with you because you're not being honest and forthright with that issue.

Racism exists everywhere, you know.

So if you're not going to be honest about that, how can we even begin to be honest about the killing of my father?

So as you can see, for now, nearly a decade, they have continued to deny any criminal wrongdoing.

Try to allege that my father posed an imminent threat to life and well-being.

But I challenge anyone to listen to the actual audio of the data he was killed and tell me that you don't hear misconduct or murder and this is the city of White Plains that I know now.

Well, then I do have a sort of difficult question to push back with, but it is something that always comes up whenever there is a police killing of an unarmed black man.

And that is why didn't he just comply?

Why didn't he just do what the police wanted, just acquiesce to whatever they their demands were?

And then it would have been fine, because I think that for a lot of other people, that is their experience with police departments.

But you interact with the police department, police officer, excuse me, you do what he says.

It's very quick.

Bing, bang, boom.

No problem.

And you go on your way.

So what is your response to that pushback that why didn't your father just comply?

Well, I'd say first, let's look at the facts.

Let's look at the facts of the case.

You were responding to a medical emergency, not a crime in progress.

You came to the door and you knocked on the door.

He did respond, he came to the door, he told you, I did not call you, it was a mistake.

They said they needed to see him.

He opened the door, he had a lock on his door.

He didn't open it completely, but he opened it enough for them to see him and again, he said to them, I'm fine, I didn't call you.

So why the urgency to get inside his apartment at that time after he told you he was OK after the lifeI monitoring station told you they wanted to cancel the call, there was no need for you to come in.

You were supposed to be protected from illegal search and seizure.

OK, and what they did was they violated his constitutional rights.

So in short.

For me, a black man, whether I comply, I get dead, whether I don't comply, I get that hands up.

Get me killed.

Hands down.

Get me killed because I can't change my skin complexion.

Because you already come to this conclusion that I'm this threat.

You know, I'm not afforded the the luxury of being taken down, put in the put in custody after committing an offense or whatever and taken to Wendy's to get something to eat.

They don't do that for me, they shoot me and they say, I fear for my life.

So the short answer simply is he did comply.

But his compliance wasn't enough.

And I'd like to address that as well.

I think it's a it's a very good question.

It's first time that I can recall having that question posed, although it's been going goes through my mind quite often.

And as Kenneth said and the both of you said, if he had opened the door, it might have ended differently or it might have ended the same.

But the fact remains, he was within his rights, his constitutional rights to deny them entrance into his home.

So everything there was within his rights.

And you know that, that it's undeniable.

That is undeniable.

So but I mean, I know that if some officers came to my door nine times out of ten, I would probably open the door because I, you know, like I don't want I don't want to end up dead on the floor or something like that.

So I probably and I guess if you took a poll, maybe maybe 50 percent of the people would say yes and 50 would say no, I don't know.

But people who know their rights, they can very readily say no because they know that it is within their rights to deny unlawful entry.

And one thing I wanted to ask you both on top of this, as a journalist myself now, if it came to my mind that with all the kinds of recording devices that that exist nowadays and I know these officers, they must have known something about that this whole conversation was being recorded.

And Kenneth Chamberlain even said this is going to be recorded.

People will know what you did.

And they still just muscle past that and continue to create to to break down this door when using racial epithets and just I wonder why why did they do that, you know?

I mean, why didn't they none of them ever stop and say, look, we're being recorded.

Maybe we need to take time out, take a breath, do something differently.

Can anyone address that as well?

Well, I can say from the from the information that we have, as far as the case is concerned, they didn't know they were being recorded.

They thought it was just a live conversation that they were having with the operator.

So they they had no idea.

That's number one.

Number two, they thought that Kenneth Chamberlain, the senior, that no one loved them and he didn't have family and no one cared about them and no one was going to continue to push the issue even ten years later on getting accountability for him.

So that is just the arrogance of that police department, believing that they can do whatever they want to, whomever they want with impunity.

And no one's going to say anything.

That's interesting.


Now, now, if police law enforcement officers see this film, I think maybe that thought might go through the head more than it would have gone through prior to this, because they see it right there.

And the evidence is like they say, the proof is in the pudding.


No, that's quite all right.

And of course, that does remain to be seen.

I do want to make sure that I ask you, because a grand jury declined to bring any charges against the officers, including the one who actually killed your father.

So I wanted to ask you, where does the court case, where do the court cases stand?

I understand there's a new district attorney in White Plains who has vowed to take up this case where things stand.

So we are back in federal court.

We've won our appeal in June of twenty twenty.

And I often talk about one of the decisions or the decision that the judges rule from the 2nd Circuit where they said instead of treating Mr. Chamberlain like a critically ill patient, you treated him like a criminal suspect.

So we are back in court and.

I think it's going to be a little different this time because all of the things that were thrown out originally are back in.

And one of the things that I encourage and I encourage families to fight is because a win for you is a win for me, because what that does is it creates case law.

So we have something that we can stand on and fight with when these type of tragedies happen from the local level.

The D.A., Janet DiFiore, who was the original district attorney that had this case.

I've never believed that she presented it fully and fairly.

So when she came back with no true bill, it didn't surprise me.

Plus, I know that, as I always say, that they all of these prosecutors seem to read from the same playbook where they say that after an exhaustive investigation, the grand jury has decided that there's not sufficient enough evidence to charge an officer in the killing of.

And I would say you add the name at the end, it could be Kenneth Chamberlain saying it can be remotely gramme.

It could be Mike Brown.

You know, you put the name at the end.

So now we have a new district attorney.

Her name is Mimi Rocha.

And I remember when she was first running, she often talked about the rule of law.

And having the rule of law apply and what the rule of law says is that the government is agents and officials ought to be held to the same set of rules that enables a firm function in society.

So when I went to her, I said to her, I want you to take a second look at my file.

This case, she didn't have to do it.

Because it didn't happen on her watch, but because my family and I made the request, she said, OK, we're going to take a second look at it, you know, and she didn't promise anything, but she said she would look at the case in its entirety.

And if the facts warrant that she should move forward, you know, legally and charge someone criminally, that, you know, there's a strong possibility that that could happen.

But at the very least, I would like to see the grand jury minutes.

I want to see what the original charges were that you put on the table for the grand jury to consider because she probably just put intentional murder.

She never put criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter or anything like that, because you know that you can't prove intentional murder with the police officer and you can't prove that that officer woke up and said, I'm going to kill someone.

But with manslaughter, I just have to prove you did it.

Well, unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there.

Tonight, we were joined by Frankie Faison on the star of the film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain and Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., the son of the gentleman for whom the film was named.

I want to thank you both so much for taking time out of your schedules to speak with us and again about this incredibly powerful and moving film.

Thank you.

Thank you so much.

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