Key Points

  • KCPD Det. DeValkenaere found guilty of killing Cameron Lamb; sentenced to six years.
  • DeValkenaere is the only KCPD officer convicted of killing an unarmed Black man.
  • Potential pardon for DeValkenaere speculated.
  • Protesters fear preferential treatment for convicted officer in appeal hearing.
  • Appeals judges will decide whether to uphold, overturn, or grant a new trial.

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Court of Appeals for Western Missouri last week in support of Cameron Lamb, who was killed in 2019 at the hands of KCPD Det. Eric DeValkenaere. 

DeValkenaere was the first KCPD officer to be convicted of shooting a Black person. Since his 2021 sentence of six years in prison for second-degree manslaughter and armed criminal action, he’s been out of jail as he worked to build a case for an appeal.  

Common grounds for filing an appeal include the discovery of new evidence, proof that evidence was withheld, ineffective counsel, an excessive sentence, or evidence of jury misconduct. 

The protestors had reason to fear DeValkenaere might get preferential treatment, especially with state-level political forces working to aid the former officer. 

As an example, in a highly unusual move, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey delayed the appeals hearing multiple times while DeValkenaere was free on bond.  

Bailey ultimately decided not to argue against the former detective at his appeal hearing. Instead, the AG decided to try to overturn DeValkenaere’s conviction or get him a new trial. There is also a lot of speculation that Gov. Mike Parson, who has a law enforcement background, may even pardon DeValkenaere. 

“A pardon would send a loud and clear message to KCPD that it’s open season on Black and Brown folks,” said Steve Young, co-founder of the KC Law Enforcement Accountability Project. 

Steve Young, co-founder of the KC Law Enforcement Accountability Project, speaks at a rally for Cameron Lamb.

The Shooting

Lamb had just backed into his driveway when DeValkenaere and his partner entered Lamb’s property by breaking down a privacy fence under the suspicion that Lamb had broken several traffic laws. 

They were dressed in plain clothes, riding in unmarked cars and didn’t identify themselves.  

DeValkanaere later claimed that Lamb pointed a gun at his partner— a claim his partner refuted in court — but within 10 seconds of entering the property, DeValkenaere had fired four shots, fatally wounding Lamb.   

The judge in DeValkenaere’s criminal case found that the officers violated Lamb’s Fourth Amendment rights by not having a warrant or probable cause to be on Lamb’s property, and that DeValkenaere’s conduct was reckless in shooting Lamb.

Cameron Lamb with his three children.

Appeals Hearing 

Again, in an interesting twist, DeValkenaere’s attorney was Jonathan Laurans and Missouri Assistant Attorney General Shaun Mackelprang. Yes, the organization that had originally prosecuted him was now defending him.  

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker petitioned the appeals court to allow her office to argue for upholding DeValkenaere’s conviction since Bailey wouldn’t, and was allowed to present a case to the appeals court. Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Ben Cox defended the conviction. 

Many of the claims presented by those arguing for DeValkenaere were not consistent with the facts found in the previous trial. 

For instance, attorneys for DeValkenaere said that Lamb had a gun, while Cox argued that DeValkenaere’s partner said he clearly saw that Lamb was unarmed and even heavily hinted that a gun found on the scene was a plant. The appeals judges pushed back at the claims made by DeValkenaere’s attorneys.  

“When there’s conflicting testimony, under our lens of review, when it’s conflicting, we go with the evidence that supports the verdict,” said Appellate Judge Thomas N. Chapman.

DeValkenaere’s attorney said that the former police officer did nothing wrong, while prosecutor Cox said DeValkenaere was at fault many steps along the way. 

“DeValkenaere was criminally negligent that day, and Cameron Lamb died as a result,” said Cox. 

At the appeal hearing, three judges heard arguments and will deliberate over whether to uphold DeValkenaere’s conviction, overturn it, or grant a new trial. The decision may take more than a month. 

“Today we asked the court to uphold the rule of law — just as we have in countless other cases,” said Baker, the Jackson County Prosecutor. “We will respectfully await the court’s decision.” 

KCPD Detective Eric DeValkenaere spent 20 years on the police force.

Peters Baker’s Letter to Parson

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker wrote a letter to Gov. Mike Parson asking him not to pardon DeValkenaere, given the potential unrest and erosion of public trust. 

Parson has denied that DeValkenaere has been considered for a pardon, at least until the appeals process is complete. 

The unusual nature of the case and the fact that DeValkenaere has been free on bond without spending any time behind bars has local activist groups on edge. 

“I’ve never heard of a cop anywhere that got charged, goes to court, and got convicted but isn’t in jail,” said local activist Debbie Hendricks. “Let that be me or anybody Black, and they are going to jail right away.”

Aquil Bey, Cameron Lamb’s father, says that the family — including Lamb’s three children — are hurting from the incident. 

The family hopes to get accountability by upholding the conviction and doesn’t want to see a new trial or the conviction overturned.  

“They don’t want you to know about the hurt my wife and this family feels,” said Bey. “We’ve been hurting ever since, and now you are going to tell me that here’s a guy that murdered my son, and they are going to try to let him go.”