White Missouri officer convicted of black man’s death in 2019

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A judge on Friday indicted a white Kansas City police officer for manslaughter and armed felony in the fatal shooting of a black man, in a case prosecutors said police planted evidence.

Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs has issued a verdict against Officer Eric de Valkner in the death of Cameron Lamb, 26. Lamb was shot while lining up in his garage on December 3, 2019, after his convertible girlfriend was chased in a stolen pickup truck.

Youngs described it as a tragic case with disturbing facts and said that Devalkner and the officer with him escalated a situation that had calmed down.

After the sentencing, the police escorted Devalkiner and his family from the building. An officer said they would not be suspended.

Lee Merritt, a Texas civil rights attorney, spoke on behalf of the Lamb family.

“Today he won’t bring him back. Justice will be short, but this is critical. This is history. And it means something,” Merritt said.

Devalkner testified during the trial that he had fired after Lamb pointed a gun at another detective, Troy Schwalm, and that he believed his actions saved his partner’s life.

“I’m thinking, ‘I can’t let this happen, I can’t let him shoot Troy,'” DeValkner told the court.

However, prosecutors argued that the police lacked a warrant to be present on the property and staged the shooting to support their allegations that Lamb was armed. Prosecutors said that before he was shot, Lamb had his left hand on the truck’s steering wheel and his mobile phone in his right hand.

Another officer who was the first to arrive at the scene after the shooting testified during the trial that he did not see a gun on the ground under Lamb’s left arm, which was hanging from the truck window. Later, though, there is a handgun in the police photos.

Two bullets were found in Lamb’s pockets at the morgue, but crime scene technicians did not find them at the scene. Prosecutors also raised questions about whether Lamb, who was right-handed, had used his left hand to draw a pistol due to a previous injury. The defense argued that it could be.

“What we sought in this case was a fair outcome and I think that’s where we stand today,” Jackson County District Attorney Jean Peters Baker said after the ruling.

Youngs said the officers had no probable cause to believe any crime had been committed, did not have an arrest warrant for Lamb’s arrest and did not have a search warrant or consent to be on the property. He described the police as the primary aggressors and said it was their duty to retreat, but Devalkner used illegal lethal force instead. He did not address allegations that evidence had been planted.

Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey, said the result was overwhelming.

She said, “I miss my child and that doesn’t have to be. It wasn’t like that. My son was in his house and he was taking care of his own business when they took it upon themselves to go to the backyard. He needed him so badly not just for his family, but for the community.”

The verdict came after a bench trial, which was held before a judge without a jury at DeValkenaere’s request. DeValkenaere will remain free on bail until he is judged. No date has been set for the sentencing hearing. He faces up to four years in prison.

The murder of Lamb, a father of three, was often invoked during racial injustice protests in Kansas City last year. It was among several cases cited by a group of civil rights organizations in a petition urging US Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Kansas City Police Department. The indictment in the case came days after Lamb’s death received renewed interest stemming from his family’s meeting with then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

Daron Edwards, one of the many local pastors who have led efforts to improve policing in the minority community, said he appreciates the ruling.

“There is a lot of hope that comes out of this for this family and for the many who are going to come into the legal system to find the kind of justice that we all think this county has,” Edwards said.

Last year, prosecutors brought criminal charges against five Kansas City police officers for using excessive force against blacks. DeValkenaere was the only officer charged with an on-duty murder.

The police department released a statement acknowledging the decision and saying that shooting the officers “is difficult not only for members of the community, but also for members of the police department.” A department spokesperson did not respond to messages seeking further comment and information, including about DeValkenaere’s employment status.

Officials from the Kansas City Police Fraternity did not immediately respond to phone messages or emails.

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An earlier version of this story was corrected by omitting a reference to the case that referred to the first time a white Kansas City police officer was charged with the murder of a black person. Such a case occurred in 1942.

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