BONUS INTERVIEW WITH FRANKIE FAISON
In The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, the film follows the 2011 fatal shooting of a 68-year-old African American military veteran, Kenneth Chamberlain by police in White Plains, NY. Tonight, the star of the film, Frankie Faison, along with activist Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., join us with 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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
What does that mean to you?
Why was it important that that's the way that this
Because people have to understand that race and
class play a role in how you're treated by law
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
You were supposed to be protected from illegal
search and seizure.
OK, and what they did was they violated his
So in short.
For me, a black man, whether I comply, I get
dead, whether I don't comply, I get that hands
Get me killed.
Get me killed because I can't change my skin
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
So when she came back with no true bill, it didn't
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
Well, unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it
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 so much.