Kansas City police detective indicted in 2019 fatal shooting

Tribune Content Agency

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Jackson County grand jury on Thursday indicted a Kansas City police detective in the 2019 killing of a man who was shot while sitting in his pickup truck in his own backyard, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced.

Eric J. DeValkenaere, 41, was charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the Dec. 3 killing of Cameron Lamb, 26. A warrant has been issued and bond was set at $30,000, according to court records.

Baker announced the criminal indictment during a news conference at the Jackson County Courthouse. She said her office was “stymied” by the Kansas City Police Department when it didn’t hand over the probable cause statement in the shooting.

In a written statement, the department said DeValkenaere has been an officer since September 1999 and was assigned to the investigative bureau. He has been suspended.

“The Kansas City Missouri Police Department continues to mourn the loss of life and all suffering surrounding this incident,” the statement said. “We respect the judicial process, including the grand jury’s finding in this matter, as well as all defendants’ presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”

As with any officer-involved shooting, the department will internally review the officer’s actions, police said.

Lamb’s name has been chanted during recent local protests over police brutality and racism. Lamb was black; DeValkenaere is white.

Laurie Bey, Lamb’s mother, said Thursday the criminal charges were overdue.

“He was my everything,” Bey said. “He was not the precious lamb but he was the precious lamb that God blessed me with and I miss him so much.”

Kansas City’s Fraternal Order of Police denounced the charges, calling the indictment an example of a prosecutor “abusing her authority for political gain.”

In a statement, Mayor Quinton Lucas said his heart continues to break for Lamb’s family.

“Even though it has been unnecessarily delayed in this case, I believe our justice system in Kansas City took an important step today, showing all are accountable before the law,” Lucas said.

According to police, the shooting unfolded after an officer went to investigate a disturbance between two vehicles on the road. A police helicopter tracked one of the vehicles as it pulled behind a home on College Avenue.

Detectives approached a man in the vehicle and “the officer was put in a position where he had to discharge his firearm,” a Police Department spokesman previously said.

Police investigating the shooting found Lamb inside the vehicle with his left arm and head hanging out of the driver’s side window. On the ground near his left hand was a handgun, according to police.

Lamb’s family said they struggled to believe that version of events. His father, Bobby Lamb, said his son was not the type of man to act the way police alleged he had.

At a vigil held in the weeks after Lamb’s death, family members spoke about frayed relations between police and African Americans nationwide. They said they hope that Lamb’s death can lead to progress in those relations and a reduction in violence.

An attorney for the family said police were on Lamb’s property illegally and recklessly pursued a nonviolent traffic offender.

The Police Department was criticized after it withheld a probable cause statement sought by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office while it was considering filing charges against the detective.

Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said she and others who worked with the family are pleased with the criminal indictment.

“This is the first step in getting justice for Cameron Lamb’s family,” Grant said, saying the next step should be a conviction followed by incarceration. “Hopefully this is a strong message to police officers that there are consequences for excessive use of force and killing black men and women without cause.”

In a statement, Brad Lemon, president of Kansas City’s Fraternal Order of Police, said the union supported DeValkenaere and described him as a decorated officer.

“The FOP and its 1,500 members fully support Officer DeValkenaere,” according to the statement.

The law firm representing the police union said DeValkenaere was trying to protect himself after Lamb allegedly raised and pointed a gun toward an officer. It called the incident a justified police shooting.

“We anticipate that our client will be exonerated,” the firm said in a statement.

DeValkenaere is expected to surrender to authorities at a later date. No date has been set on when he will appear in court.

Lamb’s relatives were among several families of black Americans killed in interactions with police to meet privately this week with President Donald Trump before a Rose Garden signing ceremony for an executive order that the president said would encourage better police practices, The Associated Press reported.

The issue has received increased scrutiny since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

An online change.org petition demanding charges against the officer who killed Lamb had more than 200,000 signatures.

Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who is representing Lamb’s family, has said it was a brief dispute with a girlfriend that caused the pursuit. He questioned whether officers violated Lamb’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“As a constitutional lawyer, I am particularly offended when people of color are killed in their own home,” Merritt previously said. “It’s something about the sanctity of someone’s home that should be protected.”


©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.