A Missouri police detective was found guilty Friday of the death of a black man who was fatally wounded in 2019 while sitting in a pickup truck outside his home – a notable decision given the rarity of police convictions for murder in the line of duty.
Judge J. Dale Youngs ruled that Kansas City Police Department detective Eric J. De Valkenaer had no reason to visit the property of Cameron Lamb, 26, who was shot twice as he returned to his garage on December 3. , 2019.De Valkenaere, 43, and another detective drove up to Mr. Lamb’s home after receiving a report of a traffic accident involving a truck driven by Mr. Lam.
But they had no warrant and had no reason to believe the crime was committed when they broke into Mr. Lamb’s backyard and confronted him, Jackson County attorneys argued, who also suggested during the trial that police planted evidence on the spot. accidents to pretend that Mr. Lamb had a gun.
Judge Youngs rejected Detective De Valkenaer’s assertion that he believed that Mr. Lamb was about to shoot his partner and found the officer guilty of second-degree manslaughter and armed felony, which carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison. In his ruling, Judge Youngs said that Detective De Valkenaeri had put himself in a position where he could harm someone.
Detective De Valkenaere, who is white, and his partner were “the first aggressors in the clash with Cameron Lamb on December 3, 2019 and were required to retreat from the confrontation under the circumstances,” Judge Youngs said.
Following the ruling, Detective De Valkenaere, who had worked at the Kansas City Police Department for about 20 years, was “suspended without pay pending dismissal,” said officer Donna Drake, a department spokeswoman.
Molly Hastings, the detective’s attorney, said they “absolutely plan to appeal” Judge Youngs’ decision.
Laurie Bay, Mr. Lamb’s mother, cried after the verdict and said she was happy and shocked by the judge’s decision.
“But I miss my child and it shouldn’t have been,” Ms. Bey told reporters. “My son was at home and he was minding his own business when they took the liberty of going out into the backyard.”
The conviction was issued on the same day that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of murder and other charges by a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Mr Rittenhouse, 18, who fatally shot two men and wounded another last year amid protests and riots over police actions, said he was acting in self-defense. Legal analysts said that in accusing Mr. Rittenhouse of murder, prosecutors fought hard to prove to the jury that Mr. Rittenhouse did not act out of a legitimate fear that his life was in danger.
In Missouri, prosecutors have focused on detectives’ decision to infiltrate private property despite a lack of evidence of a crime and a search warrant.
Mr. Lamb, a father of three young children who repaired cars in his home, was driving a red pickup truck. He and his girlfriend were involved in an argument, and a police helicopter saw a truck following her car at high speed.
Detective De Valkenaere and his partner Troy Schwalm drove to Mr. Lamb’s address. By that time, according to the prosecutor’s office, the situation had decreased. According to Michael Mansour, a Jackson County attorney’s office, Mr. Lamb stopped speeding and was heading home.
Detective De Valkenaere and Detective Schwalm arrived in different cars and approached the house.
When Mr. Lamb backed into the garage, Detective De Valkenaire, who was testifying in his own defense, said that he was standing on the side of the truck and saw Mr. Lamb run his left hand over his body, reached for his belt and pulled out a pistol. that he pointed to Detective Schwalm. Detective De Valkenaere fired his weapon four times, wounding Mr. Lamb twice.
During the trial, prosecutors suggested that the evidence had been planted in such a way as to make it appear as if Mr. Lamb had a pistol. Prosecutors said two bullets were found in Mr. Lamb’s pockets at the morgue, although the evidence was not recorded at the crime scene.
In his ruling, Judge Youngs did not invoke the toss of evidence theory. Instead, he looked into the police officers’ decision to meet with Mr. Lamb at his home when they had no credible reason to approach him or step on his property.
“The court concludes that this behavior was a gross departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have shown in this situation and constituted criminal negligence,” the judge said.
Mr Mansour, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said that by accusing the detective of manslaughter rather than murder, the prosecutor’s office has distracted attention from the “instant decision” that officers say they often have to make when faced with life or – mortal situation.
The prosecution’s argument became more direct as to whether the police violated Mr. Lamb’s Fourth Amendment right to safety on his property and created a situation in which someone could be harmed as a result of these actions.
Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County’s attorney, said there were “many sleepless nights” in this case.
“All verdicts are accompanied by grimness,” Ms. Baker told reporters after the verdict was handed down. “Someone is bored at their dinner table, and then there is another person facing punishment for the harm done.”
She said the prosecutor’s office was seeking a “fair decision.”
“I believe this is where we are today,” said Ms Baker. Mr. Lamb’s family has asked the Justice Department to investigate the Kansas City Police Department, and they are filing a federal lawsuit.
Officer Drake, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City Police Department, said in a statement that “any shooting involving a detective is difficult, not only for community members, but also for police officers.”
“We accept the court’s decision,” she said.