Former Kansas City detective sentenced to 6 years in prison for killing Black man
Eric DeValkenaere, who was convicted in November of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of Cameron Lamb, will remain free for now — the judge granted the former officer bond while he appeals the case.
Eric DeValkenaere, the former Kansas City police detective convicted in the 2019 killing of Cameron Lamb, a 26-year-old Black man, has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs handed down the sentence Friday after hearing emotional testimony from members of Lamb’s and DeValkenaere's families.
Youngs previously found DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in November, following a four-day bench trial.
Youngs sentenced DeValkenaere to three years in prison on the involuntary manslaughter conviction and six years on the armed criminal action conviction, the sentences to run concurrently.
Youngs said he had taken into account both aggravating and mitigating factors, including more than two hundred letters of support from family, friends and colleagues of DeValkenaere, and DeValkenaere's decision to escalate a situation that Youngs said had deescalated before the shooting.
"Eric DeValkenaere is not Derek Chauvin who murdered George Floyd" or the three men who ran down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery, Youngs said, referring to the murders of Black men in Minneapolis and in Brunswick, Georgia.
Youngs heard two hours of testimony from Lamb's family, including his mother and a sister, and from DeValkenaere's family, including his wife, eldest son and father, himself a former Kansas City police officer.
Lamb's family described him as an adoring father of three, whose children still grieve for him.
"He was my pride, he was my joy, he was my everything," said his mother, Laurie Bey.
DeValkenaere's family and friends described him as a "good man" who stood up for what's right and was devoted to his wife and three children. His wife noted that he had once saved a child from drowning.
One of DeValkenaere's lawyers, Molly Hastings, urged Youngs to impose the minimum possible sentence, then turned around to face her client.
"It has been our privilege to represent you," she said, "and I'm so sorry our effort has failed you."
DeValkenaere, who is white, is thought to be the first Kansas City law enforcement officer since 1941 to stand trial for the fatal shooting of a Black man. The police officer in the earlier case was acquitted.
DeValkenaere left the Kansas City Police Department following his conviction.
Jackson County prosecutors alleged that DeValkenaere recklessly shot Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, as Lamb was backing a red pickup truck into his garage at 41st Street and College Avenue in Kansas City.
The shooting occurred not long after a police helicopter spotted a red truck chasing a purple Mustang at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour through a residential neighborhood.
Prosecutors argued that DeValkenaere entered Lamb’s property without a search warrant or arrest warrant, and fired his weapon within nine seconds of coming on the property.
DeValkenaere claimed he was responding to an ongoing danger and had probable cause to enter Lamb’s property. DeValkenaere said he shot Lamb after seeing Lamb point a weapon at his partner, who was stationed on the driver’s side of Lamb’s vehicle, while DeValkenaere stood on the passenger side. DeValkenaere's partner, however, testified that he did not see a firearm.
Lamb left behind three minor children. The three, through their guardians, have filed a pending wrongful death lawsuit against DeValkenaere and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.
DeValkenaere's involuntary manslaughter conviction carried a maximum penalty of four years in prison. The armed criminal action conviction carried a minimum penalty of three years in prison, with no set maximum.
Prosecutors had recommended three- and nine-year prison terms on each of the charges, to be served concurrently.
DeValkenaere had been free while awaiting his sentencing, He will remain free after Friday's sentencing because Youngs last month granted him bond while he appeals.
Before the sentencing, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker decried what she called the desire by some to place DeValkenaere on a pedestal, “cloaking him in some kind of heroics at the expense of all these officers that put on the blue uniform and go do their job every day.”
“I think that’s a profound mistake and it’s a disservice to those officers,” Baker told KCUR. "They deserve to be championed.”
Baker said she was troubled by the “dehumanization” of Lamb, “that there was something about Cameron that made him not eligible for the protection and cloak of Missouri law.”
“And that bothers me,” she said. “I’ve been quiet about that, but now we’re post-conviction and post-sentence and it’s time to speak out loud about that. That’s damaging. Cameron Lamb was a good human being who was entitled to all the protections of the law, like every other Kansas Citian.”
Because the armed criminal conviction carries a minimum three-year sentence, DeValkenaere was not eligible for probation. But in a sentencing memorandum, DeValkenaere’s lawyers asked for an unspecified “mitigated sentence,” describing him as “a good man, a loving husband, a devoted father, a loyal friend and a distinguished public servant who deserves a sentence that takes into account his character and contributions to the community.”
The 200-plus letters of support for DeValkenaere recounted his “professionalism as an officer, his loyalty as a friend, and the respect so many people have for him,” according to DeValkenaere's lawyers.
In the sentencing memorandum, his lawyers urged Youngs to factor in the possibility that, as a police officer, DeValkenaere “will be a walking target in prison — not only as a result of convictions he directly participated in during his nearly two decades of service as a law enforcement officer, but also simply because he represents authority and law enforcement in general.”