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Missouri Attorney General seeks reversal of Kansas City officer’s conviction for killing Black man

In this 2021 file photo, Eric DeValkenaere gave emotional testimony about what led up to the shooting of Cameron Lamb, a Black man, in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star
Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere gives emotional court testimony about the events leading up to the shooting of Cameron Lamb, a Black man, in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, whose office won the conviction of police detective Eric DeValkenaere, said Attorney General Andrew Bailey was “attempting to expand his power to that of a judge.”

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey on Monday asked a state court to give a second legal chance to Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere, who was convicted of killing a Black man in 2019.

Bailey said the Missouri Court of Appeals should reverse the conviction or order a new trial for DeValkenaere because the evidence doesn’t support the judge’s findings of guilt in the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb.

Bailey said police "are clothed with authority and privileges” that “raise important questions” about DeValkenaere’s case.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, whose office obtained DeValkenaere’s conviction, held a hastily-called news conference late Monday, accusing Bailey of “attempting to expand his power to that of a judge.” Baker tried two weeks ago to preempt the state’s efforts to either pardon DeValkenaere or to grant him leniency, citing the rule of law.

Baker called Bailey’s action “distressing and unfortunate, disappointing,” and she expressed concern that it could ignite civil unrest.

“So I want Kansas City to know this: this office will keep fighting. We will keep fighting. It's what we do,” she said. “We fight for justice, and we're going to continue to fight on this case. We are not done.”

Cameron Lamb’s stepfather, Aquil Bey, said the family was notified by the attorney general’s office on Monday of its plans to file a brief in the case stating that the judge had made errors in his findings.

“(DeValkenaere) got the bench trial. He got his appeal. He hasn’t served a day in jail. He hasn't took a mug shot. He’s getting more privileges than the ex-president of the United States,” Bey said, referring to former President Donald J. Trump.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Youngs found DeValkenaere guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action following a four-day bench trial in November 2021 after DeValkenaere opted to try the case before him rather than before a jury.

Youngs later sentenced DeValkenaere to three years in prison on the manslaughter count and six years in prison on the armed criminal action count, the sentences to be served concurrently. DeValkenaere has appealed his conviction to the Missouri Court of Appeals, where Bailey filed his brief.

It was the only conviction of a white police officer for the killing of a Black man in the city's history.

DeValkenaere fatally shot Lamb, 26, on Dec. 3, 2019, as he was sitting in a pickup truck and backing into his garage at 41st Street and College Avenue. The shooting came after Lamb was involved in a car chase with his girlfriend on residential streets.

Prosecutors argued that DeValkenaere acted recklessly by entering Lamb’s property without a warrant, knocking over a makeshift fence and firing his weapon within seconds of coming upon the pickup truck. DeValkenaere claimed he saw Lamb reaching for a gun and acted to protect his partner, who was standing in front of the driver's side of the truck.

Lamb’s death was “tragic; it did not need to happen,” Bailey wrote in Monday's filing, but he said the case should be reexamined because it raises several questions about whether DeValkenaere acted reasonably, whether he had lawfully entered Lamb’s property and whether an unlawful entry deprived him of the right to act in defense of others.

“These questions are critically important to effective law enforcement, as law enforcement officers need to know whether their actions in carrying out their duties will subject them to criminal liability,” Bailey argued.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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