KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere was sentenced to 6 years in prison Friday.
DeValkenaere was found guilty in November of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the deadly shooting of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb. He is no longer employed by the Kansas City Police Department.
After hours of testimony, Judge J. Dale Youngs handed down a 3-year sentence for the involuntary manslaughter charge and a 6-year sentence for the armed criminal action charge. They will run concurrently, or at the same time.
The maximum sentencing under Missouri law for involuntary manslaughter was 4 years and at least 3 years for the armed criminal action charge. Prosecutors had requested a 9-year, concurrent sentence.
DeValkenaere and his partner were called to Lamb’s neighborhood for a traffic incident near East 41st Street and College Avenue on Dec. 13, 2019. A police helicopter saw a red pickup, believed to have been involved in the incident, turn into Lamb’s garage. The two officers followed Lamb onto his property.
During the trial, DeValkenaere admitted to shooting Lamb while he was backing his pickup truck into a garage, but said it was to protect his partner after Lamb pulled a gun and pointed it at the other officer. DeValkenaere’s partner testified that he didn’t see a weapon in Lamb’s hand.
Youngs found the officers had no probable cause to believe that Lamb had committed a crime before the shooting, and had no arrest warrant, search warrant or consent to be on Lamb’s property.
Although DeValkenaere has been sentenced, he will not be taken immediately to prison.
Last month, Youngs granted DeValkenaere’s request for appeal bond, meaning he can remain free on bond as he appeals his conviction. He had already been free on his original bond while awaiting sentencing.
Youngs has previously said that granting the request would be unprecedented in his 13 years on the bench.
Youngs said the main considerations in his decision were potential risks to the community and the chance DeValkanaere would run before punishment.
DeValkenaere has already filed the appeal Friday.
During the sentencing hearing Laurie Bey, the mother of Cameron Lamb, spoke to the judge while she sat in the witness box. She said she has trauma, affecting her health, following the death of her son.
“Make this sentence mean something because the former detective DeValkanaere, he will get to serve time and he will still get to sit down and break bread with his family and enjoy holidays and enjoy the things that don’t even matter to me anymore,” Bey said.
Sarah DeValkanaere, Eric’s wife of 20-plus years, said her husband was not unaffected in this situation.
“In fact, the day it happened I held him in my arms as he sobbed,” she said.
“I hope and pray that our family photos you were given, along with the many letters, were able to give you a clear type of person my husband is,” she said.
DeValkanaere was tearful though most of speakers advocating on his behalf for a lenient sentence.
But prosecutors argued the letters are one reason why prison time is necessary.
“It is rare that deterrence is at issue; however, a review of the defendant’s submissions at sentencing show that this might be that circumstance,” said Dion Sankar, a prosecutor for Jackson County. “Numerous letters from law enforcement officers and others disagreeing with this court’s decision — some with decades of experience — believe that the defendant’s actions were somehow proper.”
“One officer attempted to persuade the court that he had never heard of the word curtilage before this trial,” Sankar said.
Hastings closed their sentencing argument with her back turned to the judge, calling her client a good man and reiterating that he was a hero for saving his partner from potentially getting shot by Lamb.
The judge said in his verdict that the shooting did not qualify as self-defense because DeValkanaere entered the property without a warrant and escalated the situation.
Hastings used some of her time to criticizing the judge for creating a ripple effecting within KCPD.
“Because of this, they have had to made radical changes to how they response to crimes in progress, and Kansas City has become less safe as a result. The idea being that if a suspect can just reach home base, the police can’t do anything. That is the message now,” Hastings said.
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