For the first time in Kansas City history, a Kansas City Police Department officer will go on trial for the killing of a Black man.
On Mon., Nov. 8 at 9 a.m., KCPD Det. Eric DeValkenaere will go on trial for the first-degree involuntary manslaughter of Cameron Lamb. Lamb was shot and killed Dec. 3, 2019 in his truck in his backyard by plain-clothed DeValkenaere, following a disturbance that led to officers chasing Lamb’s
DeValkenaere was indicted by a Jackson County grand jury and the trial will be held in the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County with Judge J. Dale Young presiding over the nonjury trial.
The now suspended KCPD officer could face three to ten years for involuntary manslaughter and a minimum of three years for armed criminal action.
The shooting occurred while Lamb was in his vehicle in his driveway. According to court documents, DeValkenaere said he saw Lamb pull out a gun and point it at another officer, Troy Schwalm who was also plain-clothed. Schwalm said he did not see a gun in Lamb’s hands.
Police say Lamb had his left arm and head hanging out of the driver’s side window and on the ground near his left hand was a handgun.
Prosecutors say the officers entered the property without a warrant, which makes any actions the officers took unconstitutional and possibly criminal.
“The defendant’s reckless behavior began by entering the victim’s property without consent, without a warrant, knocking over the fence to gain entry into that backyard, and firing his weapon, killing Cameron within seconds of entry,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in a news conference.
Local activists with Black Rainbow are planning to show their support for Lamb and his family throughout the duration of the trial.
Chris Bizzle with Black Rainbow said that the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial earlier this year gives him hope that Lamb may receive justice, but says he wouldn’t be surprised if DeValkenaere goes free without consequences. Chauvin is serving 22.5 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.
“What happened to Cameron was unnecessary and uncalled for,” said Bizzle. “When is this going to stop? The reason this is happening is because police don’t face repercussions. They think because they’re officers, nothing is going to happen to them.”
The Chauvin and DeValkenaere convictions are outliers. The justice system rarely charges officers for on-duty shootings.
According to data from Philip Matthew Stinson, a criminal justice expert at Bowling Green State University, since 2005, 139 police officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter due to an on-duty shooting.
Of those 139 officers, 44 were convicted, with 42 cases still pending. Seven of those officers have been convicted of murder in police shootings and 37 were convicted on charges ranging from manslaughter to official misconduct.
After DeValkenaere’s indictment, the mothers of Cameron Lamb’s four children filed a wrongful death lawsuit, seeking $10 million in damages in the Western District Court of Missouri against DeValkenaere and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC). The suit alleges that police violated Lamb’s civil rights when they entered his property without a warrant.
The suit also says that the police used excessive force that resulted in Lamb’s death and that the BOPC “failed to properly train, supervise, screen, discipline, transfer, counsel or otherwise properly equip and control officers, including those who are known, or who should have been known, to engage in the use of excessive force and/or deadly force.”
S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing Lamb’s children, was co-counsel for George Floyd’s family and is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery.
Black Rainbow and the Lamb family are asking supporters to show up in court on Nov. 8 to show their support for Lamb with signs and posters.