A former Kansas City police detective was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for fatally shooting a Black man who was backing a pickup truck into a garage, but he will remain free on bond while his conviction is appealed.
Eric DeValkenaere, 43, was convicted in November of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019.
Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs sentenced DeValkenaere, who is white, to three years for involuntary manslaughter and six years for armed criminal action, with the sentences to run at the same time. Prosecutors had recommended that he be sentenced to nine years.
Youngs, who convicted DeValkenaere after a bench trial, ruled in February that he could remain freewhile his conviction is appealed.
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DeValkenaere’s attorney, Molly Hastings, argued before the sentencing that the former detective had led an exemplary life and had an outstanding career, as evidenced by testimony from his family, friends, former colleagues and by hundreds of letters of support sent to the judge.
She said there was no evidence that DeValkenaere intended to shoot Lamb when he went onto the property, and he did so only to protect his partner, Troy Schwalm.
“(Schwalm) is alive today because of the decision,” Hastings said.
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The judge previously said he had never in 13 years on the bench allowed a defendant to remain free on bond after a conviction. But he said he didn't believe it would be necessary to jail the former detective without bond to ensure he appeared at future court proceedings.
DeValkenaere has been free on $30,000 bond since he was convicted.
“Not totally happy about that. But the bottom line is we got the conviction, he’s been sentenced and at some point, he will be going to jail,” said Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey.
Lamb’s stepfather, Aquil Bey, said he hoped the verdict and jail sentence would “shake up” the police department and give people more of a voice in justice.
Sean McCauley, one of DeValkenaere's attorneys, said in a statement after sentencing that the defense will appeal and will continue to represent the former detective until he is exonerated. He said everything that happened could have been prevented if Lamb had complied with the officers and the law.
"His life has been turned upside down. He does not deserve what has happened to him for doing what he thought was necessary to protect his partner," McCauley said.
DeValkenaere testified during his trial that he shot Lamb as he was backing his pickup truck into a garage where he lived because Lamb pointed a gun at another detective.
The plainclothes detectives had followed Lamb to the property to investigate an earlier report that he had chased his girlfriend in a stolen pickup truck.
Youngs said several people who sent letters supporting DeValkenaere or who testified on his behalf Friday made it clear he was a good man with a distinguished law enforcement career. But the judge said DeValkenaere and Schwalm escalated a situation that had calmed as Lamb decided to stop chasing his girlfriend and drive home.
Youngs said the detectives “both, without taking a breath to consider whether there might be a safer action,” rushed onto the property with guns drawn.
“At any point, they could have done something else,” Youngs said.
Prosecutors alleged a gun found near Lamb's truck after the shooting was planted and the crime scene was staged. They also said the detectives had no reason to be on Lamb's property.
When he convicted DeValkenaere, Youngs said the detectives violated Lamb's constitutional rights because they had no probable cause to believe he had committed a crime, had no warrant for Lamb’s arrest and had no search warrant or consent to be on the property. He did not address the allegations that evidence had been planted.
DeVlakenaere was suspended from the police force after his conviction and left the forcein January. Police have not said if he was fired, resigned or retired.