KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The suspended Kansas City, Missouri, police detective who was convicted in November of two felonies in the shooting death of Cameron Lamb appeared in court Wednesday for a case management conference.
Eric DeValkenaere, who was convicted of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action on Nov. 19 for killing Lamb in December 2019 during an encounter in the 4100 block of College Avenue, appeared before Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs via WebEx.
DeValkenaere, who is no longer with KCPD as of Monday, appeared with his defense attorney, Molly Hastings, from her office.
The defense requested the conference to get “a feel for whether or not the court has any thoughts regarding Eric’s custody status while we are pursuing an appeal.”
Hastings asked Youngs if he would be willing to consider a stay of execution of DeValkenaere's sentence or grant him an appeal bond, which would allow him to avoid going to jail while a planned appeal worked its ways through the courts.
Calling her client a “very unique defendant” and suggesting his appeal is “likely to take a considerable amount of time," Hastings conceded that “appeal bonds aren’t something we see often,” but she hopes Youngs would see DeValkenaere as a good candidate for an exception.
Youngs said granting such a request would be unprecedented in his courtroom.
“In almost 13 years of doing this, I have never stayed execution (of a sentence) and I have never ordered an appeal bond post-verdict,” said Youngs, who was appointed to the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County in 2009.
Typically, a defendant would be remanded to custody in such cases to begin serving his or her sentence.
“Other than Mr. DeValkenaere’s status as a police officer, I’m not exactly sure what other unique circumstances would compel me to treat him differently than I might treat somebody else in his situation given the charges,” Youngs said.
DeValkenaere has been free on a $30,000 bond since he was charged, throughout his trial and post-conviction.
Hastings said the defense has “some very real safety concerns about where he would be housed, if he were to be taken into custody on the day of the sentencing," because of his law enforcement background and the high-profile nature of his case.
Jackson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dion Sankar said the state would oppose any motion to extend his pretrial bond and likely would oppose any motion for a stay, if the defense chooses to file such a motion.
“We view Mr. DeValkenaere as we would any person in his situation,” Sankar said.
Youngs asked if Sankar thought there could be any middle ground between release on bond or remand to custody, suggesting county house arrest as a hypothetical, and requested that any forthcoming motion be filed by Feb. 25, a week before sentencing, to give him time to respond.
Members of Lamb’s family listened to the conference from Sankar’s office.
Youngs and attorneys for both sides also discussed how long the sides expect to need during the sentencing hearing, which often includes statements from family about the crime’s impact and arguments aimed at influencing the final sentence, and indicated he’ll probably handle the courtroom in a similar fashion to the trial with respect to limited galleries and mandatory masks.
DeValkenaere was found guilty via bench trial after a four-day trial from Nov. 8-11.
KCPD placed DeValkenaere on administrative duty after being charged in June 2020 and he was suspended without pay pending termination after his conviction. He started with the department in 1999 and worked in the Violent Offenders Unit at the time he shot and killed Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019.
DeValkenaere said he saw Lamb pull a gun and point it at his partner, former Det. Troy Schwalm, before opening fire, but a grand jury charged DeValkenaere with involuntary manslaughter after hearing evidence that he and Schwalm violated the constitution by entering the property in the first place.
Lamb’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against DeValkenaere and the police department.
DeValkenaere is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4.
Armed criminal action carries a mandatory three to 15-year sentence with no possibility of parole during the first three years.
Second-degree involuntary manslaughter is a Class E felony, which carries a maximum sentence of four years, but there is no mandatory minimum sentence.
The trial judge has the latitude to grant immediate probation or parole at sentencing.
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