Kansas City Detective Convicted of Killing Cameron Lamb in His Backyard

Eric DeValkenaere, a Kansas City police detective, was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in the killing of Cameron Lamb.

Lamb, a Black man, was fatally shot in his own backyard in 2019 at the age of 26. During the trial, prosecutors claimed police planted evidence.

Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs issued the bench ruling against DeValkenaere, 43, convicting him of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. He had been charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.

The Kansas City Star reported that DeValkenaere was the first white Kansas City police officer in nearly 80 years to face a criminal trial in the shooting death of a Black man.

Eric DeValkenaere
Eric DeValkenaere, a Kansas City police detective, was convicted of manslaughter Friday for fatally shooting a Black man in his own backyard. Above, DeValkenaere testifies on November 10, at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri. Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star via AP, File

Details of the case were laid out during the bench trial, which started on November 8. DeValkenaere encountered Lamb while investigating a crash report involving a red pickup chasing a purple Ford Mustang. The truck, driven by Lamb, was spotted by a police helicopter.

What happened next was disputed by prosecutors and the defense. Prosecutors alleged Lamb was fatally wounded while he was backing a pickup into his garage. They also claimed DeValkenaere opened fire without a warrant and that the crime scene was staged and evidence was planted.

The prosecutors said Lamb was unarmed and a gun that police later said he had reached for was instead inside a staircase during the time of the shooting. DeValkenaere however, testified he saw Lamb reach for a gun from his waistband and point it toward the detective's partner, Troy Schwalm.

Prosecutors said Lamb had his left hand on the truck's steering wheel and a cellphone in his right hand.

Another officer who was at the scene after the shooting testified he didn't see a gun on the ground below Lamb's left arm, which was hanging out of the window of the truck. A gun was seen on the ground later in police photographs. Also, two bullets were found in Lamb's pockets at the morgue after crime scene technicians found no such ammunition at the scene.

"What we sought in this case was a just outcome and I believe that's where we stand today," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said after the ruling, according to the Associated Press.

DeValkenaere had requested a bench trial before a judge without a jury. He will reportedly remain free on bond until he is sentenced, and he faces up to four years in prison.

Attorney Lee Merritt spoke to reporters on behalf of Lamb's family following the judge's ruling.

"Today will not bring him back. Justice is going to be short, but this is momentous. This is historic. And it means something," Merritt said.