While the trials involving Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse continue to take up the bulk of evening news coverage, there’s a bit of good news breaking in the case of another race-based murder that has received far less media attention.
Heather Hollingsworth of the Associated Press reported that “a judge on Friday, Nov. 19, convicted a white Kansas City police officer of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of a Black man, in a case in which prosecutors said police planted evidence.”
According to Hollingsworth, “Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs issued the bench ruling against Officer Eric DeValkenaere in the death of Cameron Lamb, 26. Lamb was shot while backing into his garage on Dec. 3, 2019, after chasing his girlfriend’s convertible in a stolen pickup truck.”
Facts in the case remain uncertain, but they hint at a police conspiracy and framing of Lamb by DeValkenaere and his partner, detective Troy Schwalm. Based on the evidence presented in the trial, attorneys said the officers had no arrest warrant for Lamb, no probable cause to believe he had committed a crime, and no search warrant or consent to be on Lamb’s property.
During the trial, prosecutors also alleged that the pair shot Lamb, who was unarmed at the time and then altered the crime scene to make it appear that he had been shot in self-defense.
“Before he was shot, prosecutors said, Lamb had his left hand on the truck’s steering wheel and his cellphone in his right hand,” Hollingsworth said. “Another officer who was the first to arrive at the scene after the shooting testified during the trial that he didn’t see a gun on the ground below Lamb’s left arm, which was hanging out of the window of the truck. Later, though, a gun was there in police photographs.”
Ammunition may have also been placed on Lamb’s body after he was shot in an effort to corroborate the officers’ story.
“Two bullets were found in Lamb’s pockets at the morgue, but crime scene technicians didn’t find them at the scene,” Hollingsworth reported. “Prosecutors also raised questions about whether Lamb, who was right-handed, could have used his left hand to pull a gun due to an earlier injury.”
In a statement following the conclusion of the trial, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said, “what we sought in this case was a just outcome, and I believe that’s where we stand today.”
In his ruling, Judge Youngs described the murder of Lamb as tragic and said that he would still be alive today if DeValkenaere and the officer with him hadn’t escalated the tense situation.
In a statement made on behalf of Lamb’s family, Texas civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said, “Today will not bring [Lamb] back. Justice is going to be short, but this is momentous. This is historic. And it means something.”
Lamb’s mother, Laurie Bey, was even more direct, saying, “I miss my baby, and this just did not have to be. It did not have to be. My son was at his home, and he was minding his own business when they took it upon themselves to go into the backyard. He was very needed not only to his family but to the community.”
Following the verdict announcement, DeValkenaere was suspended without pay, and his position on the police force is now pending termination. He is currently free on bond and could face up to four years in prison, although a sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.