KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It could be a week or more before a verdict is reached in the trial of Kansas City Police Det. Eric DeValkenaere who is on trial for the shooting death of Cameron Lamb.
Judge J. Dale Youngs heard closing arguments Friday afternoon with the prosecution and defense presenting vastly different spins on the facts before the court.
The state argued that police officers shouldn’t have been in Lamb’s backyard and their approach resulted in his death. Prosecutors said that means use of force and self-defense arguments are off the table.
But the defense argued the opposite, saying Lamb attracted the attention of police because of his reckless driving and that DeValkenaere rightfully followed his training.
On Dec. 3, 2019, Lamb was shot and died in the pickup he was driving. Prosecutors and defense attorneys disagree on whether he knew police were following him, tracking him at speeds three times the legal limit.
DeValkenaere said he saw a gun and Lamb didn’t comply with commands, resulting in DeValkenaere firing his weapon at Lamb. Following outcry over the situation, DeValkenaere is now charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.
“It’s cowboys running in the back with guns drawn. That’s what it is, your honor, pure and simple — busting down barricades that were put there., creating a situation and escalating a situation to an inevitable result. Because at that point any move anybody makes, innocent or not, you’re dead,” Tim Dollar, assistant prosecutor for Jackson County, said.
“They’re focused on process rather than the mission, and the mission is to keep the community safe. This case isn’t about policy on a PowerPoint slide. This case is about the reality of everyday policing in this city,” Dawn Parsons, an attorney on DeValkenaere’s defense team, said.
The defense argues a “totality of the circumstances” led to DeValkenaere’s investigation of Lamb and that Lamb forced his hand by pointing a gun at the detective’s partner.
The defense dismissed claims that Lamb wasn’t armed, saying the witness offering the story, Roberta Merritt, was pressured by “anti-police protests” following the death of George Floyd and and her own financial interests in the form of a civil lawsuit.
“And the state’s arguments, inferences, innuendos that the police and other agencies planted evidence, purposely failed to render aid or purposely turned off patrol videos are not supported by any evidence,” Parsons said.
“Those are for a different audience, one with a voracious and insatiable appetite for conspiracy theories about the police,” Parsons said.
The defense insists DeValkenaere was reckless and entered the property unlawfully, violating Lamb’s constitutional rights.
“And somehow now the defense is, ‘Well they didn’t enter the house. They didn’t go inside the house,'” Dollar said.
“That’s not the law. That’s not the law. And remember, your honor, that in his own statement to the police, this detective described that grill as a barricade, a fence to that backyard. And he knowingly entered it,” Dollar said.
“Nine seconds your honor. Nine seconds. Think about that. Your honor, I have it on the screen. Start it,” Dollar said as a stopwatch started on a image projected onto a screen in the courtroom.
“That amount of time — shots fired. There’s no methodical effort by anyone anywhere,” Dollar said.
Youngs took an official court visit to where the shooting happened on Thursday, accompanied by attorneys, court staff, sheriff’s deputies and DeValkenaere.
He said he had no interaction with the defendant or the attorneys other than saying “Good morning.” He said the purpose of his visit was to get a better understanding of where the shooting happened.
He said his verdict will be delivered in the courtroom when it’s eventually completed. He said he would give people fair warning before that announcement.