KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Charges have been filed against a Kansas City, Missouri, police officer in the December 2019 shooting death of Cameron Lamb.
The Jackson County Prosecutor announced Thursday that KCPD Det. Eric DeValkenaere has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action after an indictment was handed down by a grand jury.
"His conduct was reckless. It was reckless and in violation of the Fourth Amendment," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said during a press to announce the charges. "Reckless is the conscious disregard of a risk or in this case a series of risk or assumptions that were dangerous or in this case deadly."
KCPD said DeValkenaere, who has been with the department since 1999 and worked in the Investigations Bureau, has been suspended.
"The Kansas City Missouri Police Department continues to mourn the loss of life and all suffering surrounding this incident," the department said in an emailed statement sent to media outlets. "We respect the judicial process, including the grand jury’s finding in this matter, as well as all defendants’ presumption of innocence until proven guilty. As the case makes its way through court, we will continue to respect the process,and therefore cannot comment further at this time."
Mayor Quinton Lucas also weighed on the indictment: “My heart continues to break for the family of Cameron Lamb. I thank the Grand Jury, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, and the FBI for their work. Even though it has been unnecessarily delayed in this case, I believe our justice system in Kansas City took an important step today, showing all are accountable before the law.”
The FBI aided the Jackson County prosecutor with the investigation after she claims KCPD stone-walled her office's request for a probable cause statement and related information from the department's internal investigation.
"Trust me, when I tell you that I wanted to stand at a podium in February, but I couldn’t do that because police simply refused to give me a probable cause statement in this case," Baker said. "We were stymied by this decision to refuse to provide that necessary document, so I could charge the case."
KCPD officials warned that pursuing the case would greatly harm the department's morale in denying the request for the probable cause statement, according to Baker, who also said she has received threats warning her against charging DeValkenaere.
"Warnings have come, especially more specifically against me to frankly discourage me from pursuing charges in this matter," Baker said. "Those threats didn’t work then and they won’t work now. We will stay on this case, we will keep prosecuting this case and we will prove this case in a courtroom. That is my commitment."
Lamb, 26, was shot and killed around 12:20 p.m. on Dec. 3 after officers responding to a disturbance between two vehicles shot Lamb in a vehicle behind a house in the 4100 block of College Avenue.
The initial disturbance took place near East 35th Street and College Avenue and Lamb, a father of three, allegedly was driving a red truck at a high rate of speed, chasing a purple Mustang.
A KCPD helicopter tracked the red truck to the residence six blocks away where Lamb lived.
It’s also where two non-uniformed KCPD detectives approached Lamb, who was still inside the vehicle, from the north and south sides of the house.
One of the detectives claimed to have seen Lamb point a gun at the other officer and opened fire, killing Lamb, according to the official police account of the incident.
KCPD said a gun was found at the scene underneath Lamb’s left hand, which was hanging out of the truck window when he was killed.
Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey, hired civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt to represent the family, which sought answers from the police to justify the use of lethal force.
Merritt said police had no right to enter the property and that it’s unclear if the officers identified themselves as police, but KCPD said they were wearing vests that identified them as police.
The Fourth Amendment, which prevents government agents from illegally searching or seizing private property, is at the heart of the case.
Not only were the officers in plainclothes, but no warrant or consent from the owner was obtained to search the property where DeValkenaere encountered Lamb.
DeValkenaere's attorneys released a statement through the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99, which represents the KCPD:
Eric DeValkenaere is a respected and highly decorated officer with twenty years of experience with KCPD. On the date in question, the suspect was involved in a domestic violence situation and then attracted police attention by engaging in a high-speed, dangerous car chase (with another civilian) through the residential streets of Kansas City. Police officers followed the suspect to a residence which, according to a witness on-scene, was not the suspect’s home. When officers approached the suspect, the suspect raised and pointed a gun toward an officer. In defense of this officer, Officer DeValkenaere fired at the suspect. As these facts demonstrate, this is a justified police shooting. We anticipate that our client will be exonerated.
Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon also released a statement, which says the union "and its 1,500 members fully support Officer DeValkenaere."
Lemon says it is "undisputed" that Lamb pointed a gun at a police officer, which justifies DeValkenaere's actions in shooting Lamb,
"We will devote our resources to helping Officer DeValkenaere and his family," Lemon continued. "Like other cases across the country, this is another example of the Prosecuting Attorney abusing her authority for political gain. We place our trust in the judicial system to correct this wrong and ultimately exonerate this highly decorated officer."
Baker's office brought charges against two other KCPD officers for excessive force last month, stemming from the May 2019 arrest of Brianna Hill after video of the incident surfaced.
"I view this moment as consequential, as necessary," Baker said. "We need to be here. These moments of reform are long overdue for us to have long discussions about how to reform criminal justice systems; how police, prosecutors and the justice system must reform."
Former NBA players and Kansas City-area natives Earl Watson from Kansas City, Kansas, and Philadelphia 76ers guard Alec Burks from Grandview paid for Lamb’s funeral expenses.
Lamb's name has been invoked by numerous protesters during the last three weeks during demonstrations against police brutality across Kansas City after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police last month.
De Valkenaere, who received the life-saving award after rescuing an unconscious child from the bottom of the swimming pool in May 2010.