Kansas City, MO – A Kansas City police detective has been criminally indicted for shooting a suspect who allegedly pointed a gun at another officer.
The suspect was found with his left hand hanging out the window of his truck after he was fatally shot, KSHB reported.
A gun was lying on the ground beneath it, police said.
The incident began at approximately 12:20 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2019, when the Kansas City Police Department received a report of a domestic disturbance in the area of College Avenue and East 35th Street, KSHB reported.
The suspect, later identified as 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, was allegedly speeding down the road in his red truck, chasing a purple Ford Mustang when police first spotted him.
A KCPD helicopter tracked him from above as he drove to the 4100-block of College Avenue and stopped outside a home, KSHB reported.
He was still inside the truck when two plainclothes KCPD detectives wearing ballistic vests emblazoned with the word “police” approached him from opposite directions.
As they were closing in, KCPD Detective Eric DeValkenaere allegedly spotted Lamb pointing a gun at the other detective, police said.
Det. DeValkenaere fired four rounds through the suspect’s windshield, hitting Lamb twice, The Kansas City Star reported.
Lamb’s left hand was hanging out the window of his truck after the shooting, KSHB reported.
A gun was found lying beneath it, according to police.
Prosecutors later noted that the other officer said he did not see Lamb holding a gun prior to the shooting, The Kansas City Star reported.
They further argued that Lamb, who was right-handed, only had partial use of his left hand due to a previous injury.
It is unclear whether or not that injury affected his ability to handle a firearm.
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing Lamb’s family at the behest of Lamb’s mother, alleged that police violated Lamb’s Fourth Amendment rights by confronting him on private property without the consent of the landowner or a search warrant, KSHB reported.
Merritt further claimed that Lamb had no way of knowing that the detectives were law enforcement officers, even though their ballistic vest had the word “police” on them.
On Thursday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced that a grand jury handed down an indictment against 41-year-old Det. DeValkenaere, and that he has been charged with armed criminal action and involuntary manslaughter, KSHB reported.
“His conduct was reckless,” Baker declared. “It was reckless and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
“I view this moment as consequential, as necessary,” she continued. “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.”
Baker claimed she wanted to charge Det. DeValkenaere months ago, and blamed KCPD for prolonging the investigation by refusing to give her the department’s internal investigation findings and a probable cause affidavit, KSHB reported.
“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,” she said. “We were stymied by this decision to refuse to provide that necessary document, so I could charge the case.”
She further claimed that she has been threatened not to bring charges against the highly-decorated, 20-year veteran-of-the-force.
She did not specify who allegedly threatened her.
“Warnings have come, especially more specifically against me to frankly discourage me from pursuing charges in this matter,” Baker said, according to KSHB. “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.”
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said he is heartbroken for the armed suspect’s family, KSHB reported.
“I thank the Grand Jury, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, and the FBI for their work,” Lucas said. “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.”
Det. DeValkenaere’s legal team said in a statement that they fully expect he will be exonerated.
They said that the detective fired his weapon in defense of his fellow officer, and that the matter is clearly a “justified police shooting,” KSHB reported.
Det. DeValkenaere also has the full support of the 1,500-member Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
FOP President Brad Lemon said that it is “undisputed” that the suspect pointed a firearm at the other detective, and that Baker is simply using the case as a political ploy, KSHB reported.
“We will devote our resources to helping Officer DeValkenaere and his family,” Lemon said. “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.”
Det. DeValkenaere is expected to turn himself in on his $30,000 warrant at a later date, according to The Kansas City Star.
His first court appearance has not yet been scheduled.
Urban League of Greater Kansas City President and CEO Gwen Grant said that the charges against Det. DeValkenaere are “the first step in getting justice for Cameron Lamb’s family,” The Kansas City Star reported.
“Hopefully this is a strong message to police officers that there are consequences for excessive use of force and killing Black men and women without cause,” Grant added.
Funeral expenses for Lamb, a father of three, were paid for by former NBA players Alec Burks and Earl Watson, WHSB reported.