‘Unprecedented’: Judge Rules Missouri Ex-Cop Awaiting Sentence for Killing a Black Man Can Remain Free on Appeal

A white former Kansas City, Missouri, police officer who faces up to 19 years in prison after being convicted of killing a Black man will remain free on bond after his sentencing. The prosecution tells the judge that even though the man is a cop, he should not be treated “differently.” 

Eric DeValkenaere, 43, is charged with involuntary manslaughter after 26-year-old Cameron Lamb as he sat in a pickup truck in his own backyard on Dec. 3, 2019. Photo: 41 Action News/ YouTube screenshot.

The judge maintains that he can remain free because he doesn’t believe he will run, “he knows he is going to jail.”

After a four-day bench trial in November 2021, found ex-cop Eric DeValkenaere guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the 2019 killing of Cameron Lamb, he has not spent one day in jail, KCUR reports.

And according to Jackson County Circuit Judge Dale Youngs, who convicted DeValkenaere of the crime in a bench trial and allowed him to stay out of jail on a $30,000 bond, says he will not have to endure incarceration even after his sentencing on Friday, March 4, because Youngs ruled this week that the ex-cop can remain free while he appeals his conviction.

Molly Hastings, who represents the former detective, argued earlier since her client is not a flight risk and the judge did not find “evidence of malice,” he should remain out of prison during his appeal process.

KSHB News called the decision, made on Tuesday, Feb. 22, “unprecedented.” Despite never granting such an appeal bond in his 13-year career as a judge, Youngs granted the defense motion for an appeal bond, ensuring that DeValkenaere will remain free after whatever sentence Youngs pronounces next month.  

The prosecution opposed the appeal bond motion, it was an “extraordinary request” for the defense to make.

“While a trial involving a police shooting is somewhat rare, the Defendant’s former employment and the public nature of this case do not require this Court to treat the circumstances presented in this motion differently,” prosecutors wrote.

However, Youngs said that the prosecution did not prove “there is no combination of conditions that I could impose that would guarantee or reduce the risk of the defendant’s failure to comply with court orders or to protect the community.”

He continued saying, “The defendant’s incarceration without bond or other conditions that I might impose on him is not necessary to ensure his appearance at future proceedings.”

The judge said he granted the appeal bond, but the terms are subject to conditions “that I will take up more fully with my consideration of the other issues in this case at sentencing on March 4.”

“He’s known that since November and yet here he is,” Youngs sarcastically stated while arguing the validity of his decision. “If he was a flight risk, I don’t know that I would have waited if I were Mr. DeValkenaere to fly to Panama. I think I probably would have done it … after I rendered my verdict in the case.”

DeValkenaere, who is the first Kansas City law enforcement officer since 1941 to have stood trial for killing a Black man, faces up to four years in prison on the manslaughter conviction.

Because this is not a mandatory sentence, the judge could grant the man probation. The armed criminal action conviction is a little harder to get around. Under Missouri law, that particular crime carries a mandatory 3- to 15-year sentence.

The former detective shot Lamb while he was backing a pickup truck into his garage on Dec. 3, 2019. The encounter was sparked when DeValkenaere noticed Lamb chasing his girlfriend’s convertible in the stolen vehicle, which a police helicopter tracked back to the Black man’s house.

According to testimony at the November trial, DeValkenaere said he fired at Lamb after he saw him point a firearm at his partner at the scene, Troy Schwalm.

The prosecution submitted that the officers had no legal reason to be on Lamb’s property and after the incident the shooting scene was set up to appear as if the Black man had been armed.

After rendering his verdict, Youngs ruled that the officers violated Lamb’s constitutional rights by being on his property with no probable cause to believe he had committed a crime. He also noted that they had no search warrant to be on the property or a warrant for Lamb’s arrest. 

The judge never addressed that evidence was planted by law enforcement at the shooting scene. 

After the conviction in November 2021, DeValkenaere was suspended. Two months later, he was no longer associated with KCPD. It is not public knowledge whether he resigned, retired, or was fired.

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