Kansas City’s Black Archives preserves police killing documents so people will know ‘the real story

“A Historic Moment: The Archiving of Justice”

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office has etched a historic moment into the annals of Kansas City’s history. It’s a moment that signifies progress, a moment that Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dion Sankar describes as “memorializing the moment.” On this day, history was inscribed with ink, and the Black Archives of Mid-America played a crucial role in ensuring that this moment is preserved for generations to come.

Dr. Carmaletta Williams, CEO of the Black Archives of Mid-America, stood beside a photograph of Cameron Lamb, a 26-year-old Black man whose life was tragically taken by a Kansas City Police Department officer. She fought back tears as the legal case of Eric DeValkenaere, the officer involved in the tragic incident, was officially inducted into the archives. In her own words, Dr. Williams expressed the significance of this moment, stating, “When I think about all the injustices, it’s so wonderful and so heart-fulfilling to see that justice can happen. It’s not just lost, it’s not something that’s out in the atmosphere hoping that one day it will land.”

This event took place on October 26, a day that held multiple layers of historical importance. On that same day, the Missouri Court of Appeals denied Eric DeValkenaere’s request to be released pending his appeal. It marked the day when the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office handed over the legal case to the Black Archives, where it will be digitized, cataloged, and preserved for future generations.

Eric DeValkenaere’s conviction carries immense significance as it is the first time a white Kansas City officer has been convicted in the killing of a Black man. The case continues to unfold in the courts, and DeValkenaere’s family seeks a pardon from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. However, the archived case holds within its documents the true story, the authentic history of the events that transpired. It includes the trial court sentencing transcript and the opinion and judgment from the appeals court, allowing all those who seek to understand and heal to access this vital piece of history.

While DeValkenaere was sentenced to prison, it’s essential to note the circumstances surrounding the case. Lamb, who lost his life in December 2019, was fatally shot on his own property after being pursued by the police. Despite initial claims, the courts concluded that Lamb was not in possession of a weapon at the time of the shooting, that DeValkenaere’s entry onto Lamb’s property was illegal, and that he was not acting in self-defense or in defense of another officer. The pursuit of justice in this case sends a powerful message, but the appeal and potential pardon emphasize the privilege that the police officer receives.

As history unfolds within the Black Archives of Mid-America, this chapter represents a significant moment for our community. It is a moment of reflection, learning, and healing, and it is our commitment to ensure that this history is preserved for all time. The Black Archives continues to be a cornerstone of knowledge and remembrance, telling the stories that define our past and shape our future.