KANSAS CITY, MO – In an alarming and audacious move (no doubt, an abuse of power informed by white supremacy), Missouri Governor Mike Parson is gearing up to pardon Eric DeValkenaere––the first and only Kansas City Police officer ever to be held accountable for murdering a Black man (Cameron Lamb) in Kansas City history.
DeValkenaere’s unprecedented conviction in November 2021 marked a rare moment of accountability for a notoriously unchecked department, a victory now threatened to be snuffed out.
We will continue to bring updates on this rapidly developing story.
Pleading For Justice, Once Again
In a desperate plea to uphold the ruling, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has urged Governor Parson to reconsider pardoning DeValkenaere. This pardon, she argues, not only legitimizes the reckless violence enacted by DeValkenaere but also subverts the very principle of rule of law.
“Pardons serve political interests, not the pursuit of justice. They are a tool for absolving the guilty, not vindicating the innocent,” Baker penned in her forceful letter to the Governor, highlighting the political undertones this act of clemency carries.
Regrettably, Parson’s office has remained ominously silent and could not be reached for a statement.
In Baker’s and community leader’s eyes, pardoning DeValkenaere would amount to throwing a match into a powder keg, triggering public outrage and protests. Further, it would dig the chasm of mistrust in the criminal legal system deeper – we argue to both, rightfully so.
“In August 2021, Governor Parson pardoned Mark and Patricia McCloskey who brandished firearms at peaceful protesters — most of whom were Black — who were marching against police violence against Black Americans,” said state Rep. Marlene Terry, a St. Louis Democrat, Chair of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. “If the governor follows through with his plan to pardon a former Kansas City police officer convicted of wrongfully killing a Black Missourian, it would only bolster the impression he left in 2021 that he believes different systems of justice should exist for white Missourians and Missourians of color,” she continued.
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker wrote that “Witnesses cower in fear, victims refuse to prosecute their attackers, even when faced with undeniable injury,” painting a grim picture of the state of public trust in the criminal legal system under Parsons’ watch. “Such distrust will only proliferate if you, as overseer of KCPD, choose to prioritize political expediency over legal due process.”
Background: The Murder of Cameron Lamb
In November 2021, a watershed moment in Kansas City’s history unfolded when DeValkenaere was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the brutal killing of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb. Lamb’s life was cut short while sitting in a pickup truck in his garage on 41st Street and College Avenue.
It was also proven in the court case that KCPD officers had planted evidence on the crime scene, to make it appear as though Lamb was armed at the time of his murder.
Prosecutors rightfully argued that DeValkenaere acted recklessly by barging into Lamb’s property without a warrant, disregarding a makeshift fence, and killing Lamb within moments of spotting the pickup truck.
DeValkenaere, a 20-year veteran of the department and then-member of its Violent Offender Squad, made a hollow claim that he was responding to an ongoing danger and had probable cause to invade Lamb’s property.
In November 2021, following a tension-filled four-day bench trial, the presiding Judge J. Dale Youngs of the Jackson County Circuit Court convicted DeValkenaere, finally holding him accountable for his brutal actions.
Earlier, in June 2020, a grand jury from Jackson County had delivered an indictment against DeValkenaere, a crucial first step. By March 2022, he was handed a six-year sentence, a glimmer of hope to Lamb’s family and the broader Black community in Kansas City.
But that hope was short-lived. Following the felony convictions, Youngs made an unprecedented move, allowing DeValkenaere to roam freely on bond throughout the entire trial as well as during the continuing appeal process.
The stalling tactics used by the state’s attorneys have not gone unnoticed either. Within the span of seven months they have filed for and been granted an astonishing six motions for extension.
Governor Parson has been asked to meddle in this case before, when KCPD Captain Danny Graves requested that DeValkenaere be allowed to stay out on bail pending his sentencing. Graves argued that the pursuit of justice against DeValkenaere was “politically motivated,” an accusation that starkly contrasts the deafening silence from his office in response to the imminent pardon.
This ongoing saga of brutality, white supremacy, and abuses of power continues to highlight the urgent need for abolition. We, in the tradition of the radical Black press, will remain on the frontlines of this battle––illuminating truth and demanding accountability.