KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by Jackson County Judge J. Dale Youngs in the shooting death of Cameron Lamb.
Lamb was shot and killed in December 2019 while backing up a truck into a garage at a home where he lived.
Judge Youngs said he reached a guilty verdict because DeValkenaere and his partner were the initial aggressors and were not acting in self-defense when they followed Lamb onto private property.
Youngs said they did not have permission to be on the property, did not have a warrant and were not making an arrest.
He said they did not have exigent circumstances because the chase Lamb was involved in had ended.
“When the defendant followed Sgt. Schwalm into the backyard of 4154 College and engaged Cameron Lamb, ultimately shooting and killing him he did so without considering or being aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risks associated with this conduct, including but not limited to, fact that Sgt. Schwalm and he were unlawfully on the property that they were both escalating a situation that previously had deescalated and that their actions created or exacerbated the risk,” Youngs said.
Lamb’s family was emotional following the ruling:
— Greg Payne (@GregKCTV5) November 19, 2021
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her team worked diligently on the case.
“There’s a somberness that comes with all verdicts,” she said. “We all leave the courthouse…someone misses someone around the dining room table. There’s another individual that faces punishment for the harm that’s been done.”
Gwen Grant, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said “today was not a day to celebrate” but instead, remember Lamb.
“By convicting Officer DeValkenaere, Kansas City is sending a signal to all police that the days of killing Black people with impunity are over, they will be held accountable,” she said. “We commend the prosecution team assembled who pursued justice with rigor and integrity. We profoundly appreciate that justice has been served by the court’s decision, but today is not a day to celebrate. Rather, it’s a time for somber remembrance of Cameron Lamb and all the lives lost to police violence. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to building a community of trust that keeps all Americans safe.”
The Kansas City Police Department issued this response:
Every officer involved shooting is difficult not only for the members in the community, but also the members of the police department. We acknowledge the Court’s decision.
Police said in a statement that following the verdict, DeValkenaere has been suspended without pay pending termination.
Testimony during the trial
The defense argued during the trial DeValkenaere must be found not guilty because officers had reasonable suspicion and a duty to investigate Lamb because he was chasing after another vehicle driven by a woman Lamb dated at speeds of 60-90 miles per hour.
Defense attorney Dawn Parsons said DeValkenaere was doing his job. She said a vehicle going 60 to 90 mph, weaving into other lanes of traffic and running a red light was as dangerous as a bullet.
Prosecutors argued that officers didn’t have proof of a crime, a warrant or permission to be on private property. They also said Lamb had limited use of his left hand due to an injury in 2015 and later suggested the gun and ammunition may have been planted throughout the trial.
— Greg Payne (@GregKCTV5) November 19, 2021
Dr. David Clymer, an orthopedic surgeon, said Lamb could have likely used his left hand. Clymer said he reviewed medical records and watched social media videos posted of Lamb.
The trial featured emotional testimony from both witnesses for the prosecution and defense. DeValkenaere took the stand in his own defense, while Lamb’s mother took the stand.
DeValkenaere said he saw Lamb pull a gun and raise it toward Kansas City Police Sgt. Troy Schwalm, his partner. He said he would not have shot Lamb had Lamb not pointed the gun at his Schwalm.
Lamb’s mother took the stand and displayed photos of her son. Photos included Lamb with his children.
In its motion to judgement of acquittal, the defense said the State has “failed prove the elements of the crime alleged in the indictment” and “failed to establish by proof which comes up to the requirements for submission to the jury in a criminal case that the defendant committed the alleged offense with the requisite mental state.”
In its response to that motion, the state argued that DeValkenaere “did not announce himself as police” and later fired his gun at Lamb four times. They also argue that cell phone records indicate Lamb was on the phone with one hand and showing is other hand to Schwalm.
Case received national attention
The case was among those cited by a group of civil rights organizations in a petition urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Kansas City Police Department.
It was a case often cited in demonstrations across Kansas City.
Lamb’s family also met with former President Donald Trump in 2020 at The White House.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which helps support the legal defense of police officers the organization believes are wrongfully charged, came to the assistance of DeValkenaere.
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