A judge on Friday convicted a White Kansas City police officer of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of a Black man, in a case in which prosecutors said police planted evidence, reports ABC News.
Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs issued the bench ruling against Officer Eric DeValkenaere in the death of Cameron Lamb, 26. Lamb was shot while backing into his garage on Dec. 3, 2019, after chasing his girlfriend’s convertible in a stolen pickup truck. Police said in a statement that following the verdict, DeValkenaere has been suspended without pay pending termination.
Youngs called it a tragic case with troubling facts and said DeValkenaere and the officer with him escalated a situation that had been calmed. After the verdict, police escorted DeValkenaere and his family from the building. An officer said they wouldn’t be commenting.
Lee Merritt, a Texas civil rights attorney, spoke on behalf of Lamb’s family. “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.
DeValkenaere testified during the trial that he fired after Lamb pointed a gun at another detective, Troy Schwalm, and that he believed his actions saved his partner’s life.
“I’m thinking, ‘I can’t let this happen, I can’t let him shoot Troy,’” DeValkenaere told the court.
Prosecutors, however, argued that police lacked a warrant to be on the property and staged the shooting scene to support their claims that Lamb was armed. Before he was shot, prosecutors said, Lamb had his left hand on the truck’s steering wheel and his cellphone in his right hand.
Another officer who was the first to arrive at the scene after the shooting testified during the trial that he didn’t see a gun on the ground below Lamb’s left arm, which was hanging out of the window of the truck. Later, though, a gun was there in police photographs.
Two bullets were found in Lamb’s pockets at the morgue, but crime scene technicians didn’t find them at the scene. And prosecutors also raised questions about whether Lamb, who was right-handed, could have used his left hand to pull a gun due to an earlier injury. The defense argued that he could have.
“What we sought in this case was a just outcome and I believe that’s where we stand today,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker after the ruling.