Police detective charged in fatal shooting

“His conduct was reckless. It was reckless and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

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Image Credit: Tammy Ljungblad tljungblad@kcstar.com

Responsible for entering a man’s backyard and fatally shooting him, a Kansas City police detective was recently charged with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. According to the family’s attorney, the plainclothes detective illegally entered onto the property and it remains unclear whether the plainclothes officers identified themselves as police before opening fire.

Around 12:30 p.m. on December 3, 2019, Kansas City police officers noticed a red pickup truck chasing a purple Mustang at high speeds. After the pickup truck ran a red light, the officers pursued the vehicle into a residential area.

In a statement following the incident, the Kansas City Police Department wrote: “The driver of the truck presented a clear danger to other drivers, particularly the occupants of the purple Mustang he was chasing. The helicopter officers saw the truck back into a residential lot behind a house in the 4100 block of College. They directed officers on the ground to that location. They needed to determine why the driver was chasing the Mustang.

“One officer went to the south side of the house, and one to the north. The officer who came from the south made contact with an individual in the back yard who was working on vehicles. The other officer from the north watched Cameron Lamb back the truck down the driveway. He saw Lamb pull a gun and point it in the direction of the other officer. The officer on the north side fired at Lamb. Lamb never exited the truck. The other individual who had been working on cars was not involved in the incident and was not injured.

“Lamb was found with his left hand hanging out the truck’s window with a gun on the ground underneath it.”

On Thursday, a grand jury indicted Detective Eric DeValkenaere on charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action for the fatal shooting of Lamb. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Lamb’s family, accused the plainclothes detectives of illegally entering Lamb’s property without a warrant and possibly failing to identify themselves as police officers before opening fire.

“As a constitutional lawyer, I am particularly offended when people of color are killed in their own home,” Merritt told The Associated Press. “It’s something about the sanctity of someone’s home that should be protected.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99, which represents the KCPD, issued the following statement: “Eric DeValkenaere is a respected and highly decorated officer with twenty years of experience with KCPD. On the date in question, the suspect was involved in a domestic violence situation and then attracted police attention by engaging in a high-speed, dangerous car chase (with another civilian) through the residential streets of Kansas City. Police officers followed the suspect to a residence which, according to a witness on-scene, was not the suspect’s home. When officers approached the suspect, the suspect raised and pointed a gun toward an officer. In defense of this officer, Officer DeValkenaere fired at the suspect. As these facts demonstrate, this is a justified police shooting. We anticipate that our client will be exonerated.”

“His conduct was reckless. It was reckless and in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said during a press conference to announce the charges against Det. DeValkenaere. “Reckless is the conscious disregard of a risk or in this case a series of risk or assumptions that were dangerous or in this case deadly.”

“The Kansas City Missouri Police Department continues to mourn the loss of life and all suffering surrounding this incident,” the department stated in a press release. “We respect the judicial process, including the grand jury’s finding in this matter, as well as all defendants’ presumption of innocence until proven guilty. As the case makes its way through court, we will continue to respect the process, and therefore cannot comment further at this time.”

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