Justified killing or judicial murder?

Trayvon Martin who was shot and killed despite being unarmed Photo: Reuters

If you are curious about the depth of racial prejudice in America or the extent of the violence there, take two minutes and read on.

Kenneth Chamberlain was a retired US marine. He was 68 and had a heart problem. One night, in his own home in New York State, he was shot dead by police officers.

He posed no threat to them; at least that is what the video and audio evidence apparently shows. None of the police officers have been disciplined, much less arrested.

One other thing; Mr Chamberlain was black. Oh, and they called him "nigger" before they shot him. Or rather they fired an electric shock into him with a taser gun first and then they shot him, twice.

A Stand Up for Trayvon Martin rally in Washington Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The problem was, while he was sleeping Mr Chamberlain inadvertently triggered his medical alert device, sending an emergency message to a company and the local police department, who dispatched officers to his home.

From behind his door, he told them he did not need help, that there was no emergency and that he had not called them.

He even used the Marine motto "Semper Fi", to reassure them he was in his right mind.

But they refused to leave, insisting that Kenneth let them in and banging the door so much that he rang the medical alert company, which began recording what happened next.

Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Burton

Mr Chamberlain feared for his life; "they're goin' to shoot me", he is recorded as saying.

After an hour in which they taunted him,cursed him and called him names, the police officers broke down the door and, without any warning, tasered him and then shot him.

He was standing six feet from them, still in his underwear.

Police say Mr Chamberlain had threatened them with a knife and that deadly force was justified. There is no evidence for this.

George Zimmerman was not arrested for killing Trayvon Martin Credit: Reuters

The taser gun had a camera attached. The man's son has seen the video, which cuts off after the taser is used and before the killing. He says it shows no violence from his father.

He has also heard the recording of the incident made by the medical company. The tapes have not been released to the public.

In spite of calls for the police officers to be suspended,arrested or charged,nothing has happened in the case since the shooting in November.

Kenneth Chamberlain, who had worked in the prison service for twenty years after leaving the Marines, was buried with full military honours.

The case of a young black boy in Florida, shot dead by a suspicious neighbourhood watchman, has raised issues and hackles and raised the profile of "self defence" killings in the US.

The case of Trayvon Martin is far from uncommon. And it is not the worst case. I am not even sure the case of Kenneth Chamberlain is the worst case.

But both cases raise questions about racial assumptions, about trigger-happy law enforcement officials; about justice and fairness and about what kind of a society America is, or wants to be.

Something is wrong. Call me naive, but America needs to look at this.

More on this story