WESTCHESTER – A former federal judge will assist the Westchester District Attorney’s Office (WDAO) in its review of two previous police-involved shootings in Westchester that led to the deaths of county residents Danroy Henry and Kenneth Chamberlain, as well as the subsequent handling of these matters by the WDAO, DA Miriam E. Rocah announced.
Danroy Henry, Jr., known as DJ, was killed on Oct. 17, 2010 when officers shot at Henry’s moving vehicle. He was 20 years old and a student at Pace University.
Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old former U.S. Marine who suffered from mental illness, was shot and killed in his home on Nov. 19, 2011, following a confrontation with White Plains police after they responded to an accidental medical alert. At points during the confrontation, Mr. Chamberlain possessed a knife.
In the months following these two incidents, the Henry and Chamberlain shootings were reviewed by WDAO prosecutors who ultimately presented evidence and witnesses to grand juries, whose role was to determine whether that evidence was sufficient to support the criminal charges that prosecutors presented. In both cases, no indictment was returned by the grand juries and the proceedings were automatically sealed by the court.
The current reviews will be conducted internally by designated Assistant District Attorneys and investigators who have been selected for this task by DA Rocah, with the assistance of a team of pro bono attorneys led by John Gleeson, a Debevoise & Plimpton LLP partner who previously served as a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of New York and who was also a federal prosecutor.
The pro bono team includes Debevoise & Plimpton LLP counsel Douglas S. Zolkind, a former federal public corruption prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and associates from the firm. Judge Gleeson and Mr. Zolkind have been sworn in as Special Assistant District Attorneys for purposes of the review.
“For the families of Kenneth Chamberlain and DJ Henry, the pain of their loss has not gone away over the past 10 years, nor have the questions they have about why their loved ones were killed,” DA Rocah said. “The Chamberlain and Henry families and many members of the Westchester community have asked me to review the circumstances of the shootings, the investigation and charging decisions by the DA’s Office, and the grand juries’ decision not to return indictments in either case. Today, I am announcing that I will do exactly that.
“Some may ask, why look backwards? The reason is simple: Today, we have appropriately higher expectations have for scrutiny of police encounters with mentally ill and unarmed people and for prosecutors’ responses to such incidents,” DA Rocah added. “The Henry and Chamberlain families and our community have felt strongly that further independent review is needed to heal the open wounds from these shootings. It is in that spirit that this review will be undertaken.
“I want to be very clear: While I have chosen to conduct this review, I am in no way pre-judging the outcome. At this point, I cannot say whether any further action should be taken,” DA Rocah said. “I can say that further action beyond the review will only be taken if the facts and law warrant it. I will make the final determination on what, if any, additional steps are appropriate.”
“Because the District Attorney’s Office played a central role in the original investigation and presentation to the grand juries, I believe that having Judge Gleeson participate in the review and make recommendations to me is the best way to proceed,” DA Rocah said. “Judge Gleeson’s record as a federal judge has earned him widely-held respect and a reputation for fairness and integrity, which I saw firsthand when I served as a law clerk for him many years ago. I am so pleased that he agreed to take on this important task.”
Judge Gleeson said: “It is a privilege to assist in this important undertaking. Our team looks forward to examining the circumstances of these two shootings, as well as the investigations of them and the evidence presented to the grand juries, and making an independent recommendation to DA Rocah concerning how best to proceed.”
Danroy Henry, Sr. and Angella Henry, the parents of DJ Henry, said: “In the 3,088 days since our son was killed, we have simply asked for an objective review of the absolute truth surrounding his killing. We welcome today’s news as a necessary and overdue step which we hope will lead to some more just outcome.”
Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., said: “My family and I are pleased that the matter is being reviewed by the Westchester County DA’s office. After 10 years, we believe there may never be actual justice for my father, but we are hopeful that there will be some accountability in the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. In my opinion this is a big step toward building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
“Because we are at the beginning of the review process, and because of grand jury secrecy rules, I am limited in how much I can say publicly,” DA Rocah added. “However, we know the importance of maintaining the public’s trust and we believe that announcing the commencement of our review publicly is the best way to proceed.”
There is no set timetable for completion of the review process.