In a rare verdict, a Missouri judge on Friday (Nov. 19) convicted a white Kansas City police officer of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of Cameron Lamb, a 26-year-old Black man, the Associated Press reports.
According to local public radio station KCUR, Officer Eric DeValkenaere is the first Kansas City law enforcement officer to be convicted for the fatal shooting of a Black man.
Lamb, a father of three children ages 21 months to 6 years old at the time of his death, was shot in his vehicle while backing into his own garage on Dec. 3, 2019.
Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs, issuing a bench ruling without a jury at DeValkenaere’s request, said the officer had no probable cause, no warrant or consent to enter Lamb’s property.
Youngs ruled that the cops initiated the aggression and had no right to use deadly force in the encounter.
The judge, however, didn’t address the prosecution’s allegation that the cops planted evidence to support their claim that the victim was the aggressor.
DeValkenaere faces up to four years behind bars. He remains free on bond until he’s sentenced.
KCUR reported the shooting happened shortly after a police helicopter observed a red truck chasing a purple Mustang at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour through a residential neighborhood. The prosecutor argued that DeValkenaere, along with detective Troy Schwalm, arrived at Lamb’s property without a warrant. DeValkenaere fired his weapon within seconds of coming upon Lamb’s pickup truck.
The defense accused Lamb of pulling out a gun with his left hand and pointing it at Schwalm, prompting DeValkenaere to fire his weapon.
However, Schwalm reportedly told the grand jury that he did not see Lamb with a gun. Additionally, medical records show that Lamb is right-handed and did not have full use of his left hand as a result of an injury four years before.
The prosecutor accused the police of staging the shooting scene to make it look as if Lamb was armed. Another officer who was the first to arrive at the scene after the shooting testified that he didn’t see a gun below Lamb’s left arm, yet a gun appeared later in police photographs. Also, two bullets were in the victim’s pockets at the morgue, but the crime scene technician didn’t find a bullet at the scene.
“I miss my baby and this just did not have to be,” Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey said. “It did not have to be. My son was at his home and he was minding his own business when they took it upon themselves to go into the backyard. He was very needed not only to his family, but to the community.”
DeValkenaere’s attorney, Molly Hastings, vowed to appeal the judge's ruling, according to The New York Times.
The Kansas City Police Department suspended the 20-year veteran of the force without pay, police spokeswoman Donna Drake stated, adding that “every detective-involved shooting is difficult not only for the members in the community, but also the members of the Police Department.”