KC cop found guilty of policing while white

By Jack Cashill

Those who think justice should be colorblind do not work in America’s newsrooms. Consider the headlines that followed a ruling this week by a Missouri appeals court.

“Missouri appeals court upholds conviction of white KC cop in killing of Black man,” Kansas City Star.

“Former Kansas City Police officer arrested after court upholds conviction for killing Black man,” KCUR, the Kansas City NPR station.

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“Former Missouri officer who fatally shot a Black man turns himself in after losing appeal,” Associated Press.

As the media made the public aware – the Kansas City Star relentlessly so – veteran Kansas City police officer Eric DeValkenaere did not shoot and kill an ordinary citizen. He shot a “black man.”

It did not matter that DeValkenaere had no known history of racism in his 20-plus year career, or that he was, in the words of one veteran colleague with whom I spoke, “courteous, professional, a hard worker who showed everyone respect and operated by the book.”

The “white KC cop” shot a “black man,” and for the media, that negated all other variables. Unfortunately, that dynamic seems to have affected the courts as well.

Here is what happened as described by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey in his argument in June 2023 that the conviction should be overturned.

The unfortunate Cameron Lamb began his last day on earth, Dec. 3, 2019, by hitting his girlfriend, Shanice Reed, and then ordering Reed out of his house.

Worried that her uncles and cousins would come into the house armed to retrieve Reed’s things, Lamb put them out on the front lawn.

The dispute between Reed and Lamb continued outside the house before Reed tried to drive away in her Mustang and an angry Lamb pursued her in his pickup truck.

The two cars passed KCPD detective Adam Hill going 60 to 90 miles an hour on a busy street with a 35 mph speed limit.

Based on what he witnessed, Hill thought “there was something very serious going on” and requested that a police helicopter respond to the scene.

Lamb apparently abandoned the chase and headed home, but helicopter officer Eric Valentine tracked him still going about 60 mph.

Officers Troy Schwalm and DeValkenaere were nearby, assisting with an unrelated accident, when they heard Valentine’s report.

Given the continued high speed of the pickup, Schwalm thought there were “things happening that [were] indicative of more serious offenses occurring.”

In a separate car from Schwalm, DeValkenaere saw the truck speed by him and run a red light. Driving an unmarked car, he could not and did not engage in a high speed chase.

From his helicopter, Valentine told the officers the truck had pulled into the back of a nearby residence. “Be careful,” he told them. “I last saw him in the area underneath the trees behind the house.”

After putting on his vest, DeValkenaere followed Schwalm to the address provided by Valentine. He wanted to assure that Schwalm “was not there by himself.” Both parked in front.

Schwalm took the lead, walking up the driveway with gun in “low ready” position. DeValkenaere did the same on the far side of the house. Both “believed [the incident] was something more serious than a traffic violation.”

Valentine meanwhile reported that the truck was backing into a garage below the house, presumably to duck the helicopter. At the beginning of the incident, Lamb’s truck was parked on the street.

Standing at the top of the ramp leading into the garage, Schwalm ordered Lamb to put the truck in park, telling him that it wasn’t going to fit in the garage in any case.

Coming around from the far side of the house, DeValkenaere was positioned on the retaining wall above the truck. He had a much clearer view of Lamb than did Schwalm.

Ignoring commands to stop, Lamb continued to back up. DeValkenaere claims he saw Lamb holding a pistol between his legs with his left hand. “He’s got a gun, he’s got a gun,” he shouted.

Not sensing an immediate threat, DeValkenaere refrained from shooting until he saw Lamb bring the gun “up and around the left-hand side of the steering wheel.”

“I can’t let this happen,” DeValkenaere thought, meaning that he couldn’t let Lamb shoot Schwalm who was in the more vulnerable position. Fearing the worst, DeValkenaere shot and killed Lamb.

DeValkenaere never entered the garage or touched Lamb. He yielded the shooting scene to the arriving officers. Tactical officer Eurik Hunt testified that he saw the gun “just below … the driver’s door of the vehicle just below where an arm was hanging out from the door.”

Another tactical officer, William Hewitt, saw the gun on the ground as they cleared the garage. Before entering the garage, Officer Mark Bentz saw a black semi-automatic handgun on the ground below the driver’s arm.

Worried about a jury pool in a Democratic county tainted by the news of a white cop killing a black man, DeValkenaere opted for a bench trial. It took place in November 2021, six months after the conviction of Derek Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis.

Prosecutors alleged that a handgun was planted after the shooting, but, adds the AP, “that issue was not addressed by Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs when he convicted the detective.”

In his ruling, Youngs compared DeValkenaere to Chauvin – favorably. But that he made the comparison at all suggested that a white officer killing a black perp deserved its own special criminal classification.

As Youngs saw things, “One issue of law … countermanded every other factual issue in the case,” namely “whether or not Sergeant Schwalm and Detective DeValkenaere were lawfully present on the premises when they engaged Cameron Lamb.”

Unless the state of Missouri intervenes, DeValkenaere will have six years to study up on the various interpretations of the Fourth Amendment under the heading, “white cop/black perp.”

Jack Cashill’s new book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Flight from America’s Cities,” is available in all formats.

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