Kansas City's Black Archives preserves police killing documents so people will know 'the real story'
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, which won former Kansas City police officer Eric DeValkenaere’s conviction for killing 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, was “memorializing the moment” of the historic case.
Dr. Carmaletta Williams stood beside a photo of Cameron Lamb, a 26-year-old Black man killed by a Kansas City Police Department officer, and tried not to cry.
Williams, CEO of the Black Archives of Mid-America, was publicly accepting into the archives the legal case of Eric DeValkenaere, the officer who fatally shot Lamb, capturing history as it happens.
“When I think about all the injustices, it’s so wonderful and so heart-fulfilling to see that justice can happen,” Williams said. “It’s not just lost, it’s not something that’s out in the atmosphere hoping that one day it will land.”
On Oct. 26, the same day the Missouri Court of Appeals denied DeValkenaere’s request to be released pending his appeal, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office handed over the legal case to the archives, where it will be digitized and stored.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dion Sankar acknowledged that it was a historical day for the city, “memorializing the moment” of the first conviction of a white Kansas City officer in the killing of a Black man.
Even as the case continues to play out in the courts and DeValkenaere's family seeks a pardon from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Sankar said the archived case will allow people to know “the real story and to have the real history.” The documents include the trial court sentencing transcript and the opinion and judgment from the appeals court.
“By making sure these documents are preserved for all time is as critical as anything else to let people know that if you want to heal and understand the circumstances, take a look at it for yourself and learn about it and then move from there,” he said.
DeValkenaere, 44, was transferred to the Western Reception & Diagnostic Corrections Center in St. Joseph on Oct. 25. He was found guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action by a Jackson County judge in November 2021 for killing Lamb. In March 2022, DeValkenaere was sentenced to six years in prison.
Lamb was fatally shot in December 2019 after police followed him onto his property. They said he had been in a high-speed chase with another car, that he had traffic violations and he had recently harmed a woman.
Despite what Devalkenaere’s lawyers and family still say, two courts have found that Lamb was not in possession of a gun at the time of the shooting, that DeValkenaere’s entry onto Lamb’s property was illegal, and that he was not acting in self-defense or in defense of another officer.
Jonathan Laurans, DeValkeneare's attorney, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Last week, a coalition of minority and social justice groups released a letter urging Parson against pardoning DeValkenaere. The groups include the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, NAACP MO, MORE2, KC Law Enforcement Accountability Project, Decarcerate KC, Action St. Louis, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Urban Summit, Metropolitan Congregations United, and SCLC of Greater Kansas City.
“The oath and responsibility of the governor is to uphold the rule of law and protect the human and civil rights of citizens, rather than usurping the rule of law by pardoning those duly and justly convicted of violent crimes against Black people, no matter the presence of a uniform or badge,” the letter read.
Steve Young, the leader of KC Law Enforcement Accountability Project, attended the ceremony at the archives. DeValkenaere’s conviction gives some hope for Black citizens, he said, but the appeal and a possible pardon shows “the privilege that this police officer is getting.”
“It opens up more wounds because we know that we won’t get that treatment if we had committed the same crime that that officer committed. You see how hard they’re working to allow this man to get away with murder,” Young said. “They are working so hard.”