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Appeals court upholds former KCPD officer Eric DeValkenaere's conviction for killing Cameron Lamb

DeValkenaere's bond has been revoked, arrest warrant issued
KCPD Detective Eric DeValkenaere
Posted at 9:10 AM, Oct 17, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Kansas City, Missouri, Police Det. Eric DeValkenaere’s second-degree involuntary manslaughter conviction for killing Cameron Lamb has been upheld.

A three-judge panel with the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District, who heard the appeal on Sept. 5, affirmed DeValkenaere’s conviction for manslaughter and armed criminal action Tuesday, releasing the opinion online.

Judge Thomas N. Chapman authored the unanimous opinion affirming the trial court’s conviction. Judges Janet Sutton and W. Douglas Thomson concurred on Chapman's opinion.

The appeals court found there was sufficient evidence that DeValkenaere killed Lamb, that he acted with criminal negligence, that he was not justified to use deadly force and that he illegally entered Lamb’s backyard.

“DeValkenaere has failed to establish error with respect to his conviction for involuntary manslaughter, his arguments regarding his armed criminal action conviction also fail,” Chapman wrote in the 42-page opinion.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker released a statement Tuesday in appreciation of "the deliberation and judgment of the Missouri Court of Appeals in upholding today the Trial Court’s guilty verdict," the statement said in part.

I want to again acknowledge the loss of Cameron Lamb. He was a father, son, brother, friend to many, and member of this community. I want to acknowledge his family. Like other homicide victims' families who must accept the fate of living without a loved one, they continue to struggle with this loss. They have endured a dishonest campaign designed to devalue the life of their loved one and malign his character. They accepted a manslaughter charge, rather than a murder charge. They trusted our judgment. Our office reached out today to the victim's family. They are greatly relieved by today's ruling.

This case marks a terrible tragedy in our community. But today’s ruling is an opportunity for reflection and a new path forward. I reached out to Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves to seek a pathway forward for the betterment of our community.
Jean Peters Baker, prosecuting attorney for Jackson County

DeValkenaere’s conviction stands as the city’s first known conviction of a white police officer for shooting a Black man while on duty, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it's also become a political flashpoint.

After the conviction was upheld, the Missouri Court of Appeals revoked DeValkenaere's bond and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The order for an arrest warrant, which was signed by Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District Chief Judge Gary D. Witt, commands police to take DeValkenaere into custody "and to deliver him to the appropriate correctional institution to serve any portion of the unserved sentence."

DeValkenaere was sentenced to six years in prison — three years on the manslaughter charge and six years for armed criminal action, to be served concurrently — for the double-felony conviction and has yet to serve any time in jail. But his sentence must start now, barring intervention from the Missouri Supreme Court or Gov. Mike Parson.

"Governor Parson is aware of the Court’s decision and is assessing the situation," his office said in a statement Tuesday afternoon to KSHB 41 News. "Governor Parson will give the same thorough review to Mr. DeValkenaere’s case that he gives to all others that come across his desk. No decision regarding a pardon has been made at this time."

LAMB'S DEATH

DeValkenaere shot and killed Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, during an encounter in the rear driveway of Lamb’s residence in the 4100 block of College Avenue.

Lamb and his live-in girlfriend broke up earlier that morning. He then moved her belongings to the lawn, touching off a spat that involved her family.

It also led to Lamb chasing his ex-girlfriend through east-side neighborhoods at high speeds in his truck.

Undercover detectives with DeValkenaere’s unit saw parts of the chase, but KCPD policy prevented them from initiating a police chase as they were in unmarked vehicles.

With no marked patrol units available, a request was made for a KCPD helicopter in the area to find and monitor the red truck Lamb was driving.

The police helicopter spotted a red truck that it believed to be the one from the earlier chase, which had ended.

Nonetheless, the helicopter followed the vehicle, but the police on the ground never initiated a chase of Lamb’s vehicle and the helicopter alone couldn't initiate or sustain a chase.

Eventually, with the KCPD helicopter still following, Lamb returned home and drove down the wraparound driveway at his house, conversing with a man in the backyard before backing the truck up toward a subterranean garage.

The helicopter guided another member of DeValkenaere’s unit, Sgt. Troy Schwalm, to Lamb’s house.

Dressed in plain clothes, Schwalm put on a KCPD-marked ballistic vest and drew his weapon as he went into the backyard of the residence.

Schwalm did not have a warrant, did not seek permission to enter the property from Lamb’s roommate, who was on the front porch, and did not have probable cause of any crime other than traffic offenses.

At trial, prosecutors argued that, in the absence of an active pursuit, Schwalm also lacked exigent, or mitigating, circumstances to enter the property without a warrant, permission or probable cause.

After entering the property, Schwalm approached Lamb in the backyard and told him to turn off the truck.

Lamb stopped backing the truck into the garage, but he did not turn off the truck and instead stared at Shwalm, who testified at trial that he saw Lamb’s left hand on the steering wheel during the encounter.

DeValkenaere arrived shortly after Schwalm, also in plain clothes with a KCPD-marked ballistic vest, and entered the property from the side opposite the driveway.

He did not ask Lamb’s roommate, Roberta Merritt, for permission to enter the property and knocked over a makeshift fence to reach the backyard.

Around the time Lamb reached for his cell phone to call a friend, DeValkenaere claimed to see a gun and opened fire. He shot four times and hit Lamb three times.

Fatally injured, Lamb’s foot came off the brake, and the truck rolled back into the garage.

CASE AGAINST DEVALKENAERE

DeValkenaere, who joined KCPD in 1999 and left after his conviction, was charged with first-degree manslaughter after being indicted by a grand jury in June 2020.

He opted for a bench trial, which means a judge decides the case without a jury, and Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs convicted DeValkenaere of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in November 2021.

Youngs sentenced DeValkenaere to six years in prison in March 2022, at which time DeValkenaere’s attorneys filed a notice of intent to file an appeal.

Despite the sentence, and contrary to normal court operations, Youngs allowed DeValkenaere to remain free on an appeal bond as the case worked its way through the higher court.

He’s yet to spend a day behind bars, and KCPD said no mugshot of DeValkenaere was taken when he turned himself in to authorities.

DeValkenaere’s appellate attorney, Jonathan Laurans, filed the formal appeal in October 2022, putting the case in the hands of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

The office of Andrew Bailey, who Gov. Mike Parson appointed in November 2022 as the state’s attorney general, dragged its feet filing a response — to the point the appellate court had to issue warnings to compel a brief.

When Bailey’s office did respond, the Republican-controlled attorney general’s office sided with DeValkenaere in asking for the officer’s sentence to be overturned.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker’s office, which tried the DeValkenaere case, filed a motion to intervene and defend the conviction.

That motion was granted shortly after Baker penned a letter to Parson urging him not to pardon DeValkenaere, a possibility faith leaders in Kansas City also oppose.

Two months later, Baker’s office, Laurans and a representative of Bailey’s office, Assistant Attorney General Shaun Mackelprang, argued last month before the appeals court, which took six weeks to return a decision.

Bailey's office said it is reviewing the appeals court's opinion when asked for a comment.

KDPC said: “There are still legal proceedings underway as appeals are still available. We respect the legal process and the court’s decision.”

KSHB 41 News has also reached out to Lamb's family, Laurans and Baker's office for comment.

If you have any information about a crime, you can contact your local police department directly. But if you want/need to remain anonymous, you should call the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com. Depending on your tip, the hotline could could offer you a cash reward.

Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the KSHB 41 News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the KSHB 41 News Mug Shot Policy.