*In 2011, a 68-year-old Black veteran in White Plains, NY accidentally set off his Life Alert, and police were sent to his door for a welfare check. An hour later, he was dead – shot twice in the chest by responding officers, none of whom were charged with his death.
The story was made into an 80-minute indie film with the blessing of his family. After first premiering at the Austin Film Festival in October 2019, “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain,” with Frankie Faison in the title role, has added Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment as an executive producer and is heading to the Berlin International Film Festival, carrying the weight of 2020’s global racial reckoning.
Freeman and his production partner Lori McCreary first saw the film amid last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and quickly signed on. As they seek a distributor in Berlin, Freeman and McCreary spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the need for police reform and the sad relevance of Chamberlain’s death 10 years later.
Asked why he signed on to the film, Freeman explains:
“The story of ‘Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain’ is about a man who accidentally touched off his Life Alert system, you just press that button and 911 is alerted. And 911 will send someone, generally they send the police — wrong, but they do. The police go and answer the call, and meanwhile Kenneth is telling the 911 people, “I’m okay, that was a mistake, I don’t need any help, I’m okay.” They try to tell the police that but the police insist on gaining entry to his apartment. They’re banging on the doors saying “Open the door,” and he’s telling them “Leave me alone, I’m fine, I don’t need anything, that was a mistake.” And this goes on for hours, with the police insisting on gaining access to his apartment, so much so that they eventually break down the door and wind up killing Chamberlain.
“Now, that was never any danger to the police, not even that they could imagine. This was an old man stumbling around in the dark of his apartment trying to get people to leave him alone. All of the news coverage this past year, about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter and all of the other stuff that’s been going on, this movie I think sort of narrows it all down to what is necessary here, and to my way of thinking what was necessary here is police reform. We have to get another way of doing policing in the community. Policing is for help, it’s not law enforcement, and I think this movie points that out.”
Below, CNN’s Anderson Cooper in 2012 detailed step by step how the confrontation between police and Kenneth Chamberlain escalated before he was killed.