New Movie Examines Police Killing of Black N.Y. Veteran with Bipolar Disorder

Chamberlain was fatally shot by police in New York after he accidentally triggered his medical alert device

the death of kenneth chamberlain
Photo: courtesy Gravitas Ventures

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine and correctional officer with bipolar disorder, accidentally triggered his medical alert device.

The medical alert company received the alert in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2011, and when Chamberlain — who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a heart condition — didn't respond, the operator notified the White Plains, N.Y., police.

Officers were then sent to his home to check on him.

Following a confrontation with police, Chamberlain was tased, hit with beanbag rounds and fatally shot by officers.

"Once the door was broken down, they immediately began this full-on assault," Chamberlain's son Kenneth Chamberlain Jr. tells PEOPLE. "Never once did they try to diffuse the situation."

A movie, titled The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, about that fateful day was released in theaters and on demand on Sept. 17.

the death of kenneth chamberlain
courtesy Gravitas Ventures

Chamberlain Jr. hopes that the movie will shed new light on his father's death and be a lesson to law enforcement about how to handle those living with mental health challenges.

"I want this film, if nothing else, to serve as a teaching tool, a teaching tool on what not to do," he says. "I think of a man who died in a manner that he didn't have to. That this was just a medical call, and if you would have treated it as such, my father would still be alive today."

None of the officers involved were charged in his death after a New York state grand jury declined to indict them. In June, the Westchester District Attorney's Office said it planned to review Chamberlain's shooting death.

the death of kenneth chamberlain
courtesy Gravitas Ventures

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"You have to embrace the struggle," says Chamberlain Jr. "I know that I am only doing what I know in my heart that if the situation was reversed, my father would have done for me. What type of role model am I to my children if I just say, 'When things get tough, you just give up.' No, you fight."

His father, says Chamberlain Jr., was a "God-fearing man."

"He went to church every Sunday," he says. "The day before he was killed his pastor was saying, 'Your father was just at the church cleaning the church for Sunday service.' My father wouldn't hurt anybody, my father just simply wanted to be left alone."

The White Plains Police Department could not be reached for comment.

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