Defense Lawyers for Ex-Missouri Cop Convicted of Killing Back Man as He Backed Into His Garage Argued Officers Had the Right to be on the Property Because It Was a Traffic Stop

A former Kansas City, Missouri, police detective who fatally shot a Black man as he was backing into his driveway in 2019 has filed an appeal to his conviction.

Eric DeValkenaere is the first white law enforcement officer in Kansas City to be charged and convicted for killing a Black person in over eight decades.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Dale Youngs found DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in a closed bench trial in November 2021, for the killing of Cameron Lamb. He has been sentenced to six years in prison, but has been out on bond awaiting an appeal.

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

Now his attorney Jonathan Laurans argues that his conviction should be overturned or he should get a new trial because the judge was flawed in his decision, according to an 84-page brief submitted to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri on Oct. 27.

Youngs based DeValkenaere’s conviction on his violation of Lamb’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unlawful search and seizure. He ruled that the officers had no legal justification or “exigent circumstances” for entering the property without a warrant.

DeValkenaere and his partner Kansas City Police detective Troy Schwalm were in plain clothes when DeValkenaere shot Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, after he was spotted by a police helicopter chasing his girlfriend’s purple Mustang. The helicopter tracked Lamb’s red truck to his backyard. He was shot within nine seconds of backing into his driveway, reports show.

According to court documents, both officers pulled up to the property without a warrant and did not ask a woman who was sitting on the porch for permission to enter the property. Schwalm bypassed another man who was working on cars in the back of the yard. DeValkenaere also knocked down “a barbeque grill and hood of a car to gain access to the yard,” court records say.

Laurans argues that officers had the right to enter the property because Lamb was suspected of minor traffic offenses from the chase with his girlfriend. DeValkenaere and Schwalm did not “grossly deviate” from standard police procedures and practice by entering the yard, the appeal says.

“This was a traffic stop,” the appellate brief reads.

However, the police department’s policy bars pursuits for traffic offenses. Schwalm directed commands at Lamb, but prosecutors argued that the driver did not hear him.

DeValkenaere said when he approached Lamb, his right hand was on the steering wheel and that he saw Lamb slide his left hand down toward his waist, draw a gun and point it at his partner. DeValkenaere fired four shots through the windshield of the truck. Two hit Lamb as he reversed into his garage, where he died.

Crime scene investigators found Lamb’s body with his left arm out of the driver’s door of the truck and a gun on the ground under the same hand. However, medical records later revealed Lamb was right-handed, and he had an injury in his left hand from 2015 that caused movement of that arm to be limited.

Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Bakers said the most damning evidence in the case was a voice message Lamb left on a line that captured the moments after he was shot. The officers yelled at Lamb to exit the truck and put up his hands, but he was already dead.

The appeal also paints Lamb, 26, as the “initial aggressor” instead of the officers who refused to retreat. DeValkenaere’s attorney also argues that he was entitled to defend his partner. Laurans argued prosecutors did not prove that the officer’s actions were not justified or unreasonable.

The mothers of Lamb’s three children filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the KCPD Board of Police Commissioners and DeValkenaere in June 2021.

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