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Family of Black man dehumanized as ‘bad guy’ by KCPD Chief Smith deserves an apology

·2 min read
Family members of Cameron Lamb gathered in May 2020 at a Black Lives Matter peace protest in Mill Creek Park on the Country Club Plaza. (Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com)

Laurie Bey had one question for Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith after she heard Smith’s degrading remarks about her son Cameron Lamb, who was shot to death by Kansas City police Detective Eric DeValkenaere in 2019.

“How are you going to dehumanize my son to cover up for your crooked detective?” Bey said. “The investigation wasn’t even complete.”

Audio and video from the crime scene of the fatal shooting was obtained by The Kansas City Star. On the recording, a voice confirmed to be that of Smith says, “Everyone’s good, house is clear. Bad guy’s dead.”

Lamb was not a “bad guy.” He was a doting father of three boys, a skilled mechanic and a passionate fan of the Chiefs.

Lamb, 26, cleared out his mother’s fully packed garage in the months preceding his death and worked on people’s cars for free. He dreamed of owning his own car repair shop. Was he perfect? Probably not. Most of us aren’t. Mistakes are part of life but they don’t make one less worthy of respect, as Smith seems to think.

“My son was a loving person,” Bey said.

Lamb was shot by DeValkenaere while backing into his garage in December 2019 after chasing his girlfriend’s convertible in a pickup truck he drove.

A judge found DeValkenaere guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in Lamb’s death. DeValkenaere and his partner had no legal authority to be on Lamb’s property.

Smith’s disregard for Lamb and his family is flat out disrespectful. He shows little empathy for victims of police brutality, let alone for a man killed in his own backyard by a trigger-happy former police detective. There is no need to wait until spring for the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners to make a change in KCPD’s leadership. Smith does not deserve to be the police chief.

As if it wasn’t enough that Lamb was fatally shot within nine seconds of encountering DeValkenaere, Smith just had to disparage the man’s name minutes after the deadly shooting. Even in death, a Black man has a right to dignity and respect. Who speaks ill of a man after he takes his last breath?

I don’t see how Smith can continue to lead the police department. At least four other officers under his watch are facing criminal charges for excessive force against Black people. He has backed them all.

Lamb’s family is owed an apology. Smith should offer them one before he leaves the position.

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