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Officials: Officer who shot, killed Donovon Lynch at Oceanfront acted in self-defense, no probable cause for charges

Donovon Lynch shooting press conference (November 30).PNG
Donovon Lynch
Posted at 1:31 PM, Nov 29, 2021

Timeline of events:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney's office held a press conference Tuesday to provide an update on the officer-involved shooting death of Donovon Lynch, where they announced the officer would not be charged, citing self-defense.

Lynch was fatally shot by Virginia Beach Officer Solomon Simmons at the Oceanfront on March 26. The shooting has been under investigation ever since.

This press conference came months after Lynch’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city for $50 million. The City of Virginia Beach also filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit against them.

So far, the investigation has revealed that Simmons' body camera was off at the time of the shooting and that there have been conflicting witness statements about what happened that night.

During the press conference, officials say EMTs moved Lynch's body away from the parking lot that was recently shot. Officials say the body was not moved as a cover-up, based on rumors they said that have circulated.

Officials also played a recording of a witness statement. One witness said he saw Lynch cock his gun back and said then the officer fired his shots. Lynch then yelled, "I'm shot," according to officials.

Lynch's gun was found with one bullet in the chamber at the scene. Police say there is no evidence that shows the gun was fired.

Simmons said in his statement that Lynch was crouched down and began to raise up after the gun was cocked, causing concern for the officer.

Another witness told police he did not see the shooting but heard it. He also rendered aid to Lynch.

The press conference also went into detail about any false assertions, such as another person being shot that night. Police say that is not true.

The special grand jury released their report and found no probable cause to charge Simmons in Lynch's death. The report found that the officer acted in justifiable self-defense for himself and others.

The report found no credible evidence that Lynch was shot by anyone but police. Simmons also released another statement following the jury's findings:

I am gratified that the Special Grand Jury confirmed my actions on March 26, 2021 to be entirely justified and am pleased to have my name cleared of any wrongdoing. The past eight months have been a trying time for me and my family, as I am sure it has been for the Lynch family. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that night. As the Grand Jury’s report stated, I was placed in an incredibly chaotic situation, one that required me to make a difficult, split- second decision. My heart goes out to the Lynch family for their loss, and I will continue to pray for them as I have done every day since this happened.
Solomon D. Simmons III

Related: Virginia Beach Officer who fatally shot Donovon Lynch claims gun was pointed at him, feared for his life before firing.

The special grand jury's written report was released to the public Tuesday. Click here to read the entire report. The process took months and is considered another investigation on top of the investigation by Virginia State Police, according to officials.

The family called upon the Department of Justice to handle the investigation, but instead it was taken over by Virginia State Police.

The investigation into the death of Lynch is still ongoing.

Officials also added in the Tuesday update that the grand jury recommends that the Lynch family attorney, Jeff Reichert, should be investigated for purjery. They did not comment further on this investigation other than to say that the court has entered an order to appoint a special prosecutor to this matter.

That same night of Lynch's death, 28-year-old Deshayla Harris, was shot and killed. Police said her death happened before the shooting of Lynch.

Months later, there are still no answers about who killed Harris.

Deeper look at the shooting of Donovon Lynch

Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney released this statement after the press conference Tuesday, where he confirmed Simmons is still on administrative assignment:

The death of Donovon Lynch was a tragedy, and his family has endured an unfathomable loss. The grand jury’s conclusion that the officer’s actions were deemed not criminal does not change that fact. Neither does it change how people feel about what happened that night.

The focus now will be to conduct an administrative investigation to determine whether the officer acted in compliance with departmental policy. The administrative review always occurs after the completion of the criminal investigation as to not interfere with the function of the criminal justice system. Like the criminal investigation, the administrative investigation will consider all available information regarding the incident and the conditions in which the officer found himself. We anticipate this process will be concluded no later than end of first quarter 2022. This case will be reviewed by the newly authorized Independent Citizen Review Board once operational.

Officer Simmons remains on administrative assignment while the department completes the internal investigation.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney

The Virginia Beach branch of the NAACP released the following statement following the grand jury's decision:

The Virginia Beach NAACP Branch is extremely disappointed with the decision of the Special Grand Jury regarding the death of Donovan Lynch on March 26, 2021. The reason given for no charges filed was Officer Solomon Simmons displayed Justifiable Self Defense of Himself and Defense of Others. We can categorically state that Donovan Lynch was not afforded the covering of Virginia’s Justifiable Self Defense Law during that evening.

Virginia law allows the use of self-defense where a person:

1. Reasonably believes

Ø Virginia Beach NAACP comment: By the video evidence, there were gunshots and chaos during that evening. It would not be a stretch to assume Mr. Lynch reasonably believed he was in imminent danger.

2. Is in imminent danger of an overt act

Ø Virginia Beach NAACP comment: We can understand if Mr. Lynch believed himself to be in imminent danger because of the sounds of gunfire heard on the video evidence. Again, See #1.

3. Threatening unlawful force, serious bodily harm, or death; and

Ø Virginia Beach NAACP comment: By the reporting during the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s update, Mr. Lynch was crouched/stooped/kneeled down by the bush as the gunfire and chaos ensued. If he believed, he was in imminent danger; he was accurate. As based on the reporting, Officer Simmons shot Mr. Lynch through the bushes. So, yes Mr. Lynch was in imminent danger of being shot.

4. Uses the amount of force reasonable in relation to the harm threatened.

Ø Virginia Beach NAACP comment: It would have been reasonable for Mr. Lynch to attempt to protect himself with his legally registered gun with the same amount of force that he believed he was threatened by. It would be reasonable to understand that Mr. Lynch was no match for an officer who did not identify himself or where there is no reported evidence that Mr. Lynch was aware the officer was in a position to feel threatened or that the officer felt others were threatened.

It did not take 120 hours of body cam footage and 40-60 interviews of those who were in the parking lot area that night and the death of Donovan Lynch for Virginia Beach African-American citizens to know that the same rules and privileges that others are afforded are not to be asserted or used by African-Americans. Even if our life depends on it. The branch looks forward to results of the Independent Citizen Review Board.

In closing, when is it justifiable for an African-American man to protect himself?

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