KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The bench trial began Monday in the case of a Kansas City police detective charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Some protesters believe it may not be possible to get justice for victim Cameron Lamb. Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs will determine if veteran police Det. Eric Devalkenaere is guilty, and that alone has Lamb’s supporters upset.
Devalkenaere is accused of shooting and killing Lamb in Lamb’s backyard in December 2019.
Protesters outside the courthouse Monday said they would rather see a jury of Jackson County residents decide this case.
“In our community we’re always really wary of the justice system because it has not served us well,” said Gwendolyn Grant, president & CEO at Urban League of Greater Kansas City.
Some of Lamb’s supporters said Monday they were shut out of the courtroom, as police officers supporting Devalkenaere arrived early to take a majority of the seats in the gallery. Lamb’s supporters believe some space should be reserved for other citizens and Lamb’s friends.
“It’s already a bench trial, you know, so there’s just a judge who’s actually hearing it,” said Stave Young of the Friday Night Protest group. “There’s no jury, so I don’t know what the fairness is in that. There’s already a bunch of police in the courtroom right now. They’ve made it to where other folks can’t come in and actually sit.”
A grand jury said Devalkenaere and another officer were responding to a traffic call when they went on Lamb’s property without a warrant or his permission.
Devaulkenaere said he shot Lamb in his truck after seeing Lamb point a gun at his partner with his left hand. A gun was found at the scene, but a grand jury affidavit said Lamb did not have full use of his left hand, and that is the hand Devalkenaere said Lamb used to pull the weapon.
Since Lamb was killed, the case has garnered national attention. Family members for Jacob Blake, George Floyd and Oscar Grant are in Kansas City because they said they’ve been here before.
“We’re not going to stand still and let this continue to happen to us over and over and over again,” said Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake. The younger Blake was shot by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year; the officer was not charged.
“I speak for the Lamb family,” said Travis Cains, a friend of George Floyd whose death sparked nationwide protests last summer. “We’re tired. We need some justice. We are somebody. This was a human being. It was somebody that bled red just like everyone else out here.”
Devalkenaere’s trial wasn’t the only case getting attention at the Jackson County Courthouse on Monday.
Kevin Strickland, who has been imprisoned for over 40 years for a triple murder he says he did not commit, is finally getting a hearing to make a case for his innocence.
“Hopefully in the long run, the end will be Mr. Strickland will be free,” said Larry Smith Jr., member of The National Organization of Exonerees.
Strickland’s supporters gathered Monday to let him know he’s not alone.
“Knowing that he isn’t alone when he goes back to that cell and its dreary,” Smith said. “That he might close his eyes but just know that we there with him.”