A special grand jury in Virginia Beach found “no probable cause” to charge a local cop with the death of artist Pharrell Williams’ cousin, Donovan Lynch, who was 25 years old. Despite the fact that the cop’s body camera was not turned on during the deadly shooting, the grand jury believed he was justified in defending himself.
At the scene of a disturbance along the seashore on March 26, Officer Solomon D. Simmons III fired three times, killing Lynch.
Simmons, a Black police officer, arrived on the site of the shooting after receiving a call that a shooting was taking place in the Oceanfront parking lot. Several individuals were hurt, and at least one woman was killed, according to Simmons. Lynch was seen with a gun, the officer testified, and he looked to be aiming it at the crowd and other officers on duty.
Simmons acted in “justifiable self-defense of himself and others,” according to the grand jury. In response to the verdict, the city made the following statement:
Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle showed select footage from the day during the news conference announcing the decision. He showed footage from other officers’ bodycams on the scene, illustrating what happened before and after Lynch was shot. “I shot him,” Simmons is heard saying on one of the recordings.
According to authorities, he did not disclose footage from Simmons’ bodycam since it was switched off during the incident “for unclear reasons.”
“There were a lot of individuals in that parking lot when Officer Simmons noticed Mr. Lynch coming up with the pistol,” Stolle said.
“It’s not just a question of whether the weapon was aimed at Officer Simmons. It was also a question of “Are the folks in the parking lot in danger?” He went on to say more.
A recording of a witness statement was also allowed to be played by Stolle. Lynch cocked his gun back before being shot by Simmons, according to the witness. Lynch is said to have screamed out, “I’m shot,” following that. Lynch never pointed his handgun toward Simmons, according to the grand jury report.
A local preacher and activist, Gary McCollum, offered a different picture with more nuance. The parking lot was described as a “war zone” by police after a shooting that resulted in the deaths of nine persons.
Lynch was not involved in the first incident. Lynch, according to McCollum, was a licensed gun owner who went out into the conflict zone and took shelter with his gun in order to protect himself. According to McCollum, the focus appeared to be on destroying Lynch’s reputation.
“Everyone is covered by the second amendment,” McCullom stated. “What would you do if you’re licensed to carry a firearm and you hear 50 rounds and you have a weapon on you that you’re legally permitted to have?”
Aaron Rouse, a Virginia Beach City Councilman, reiterated McCullom’s sentiments to The Daily Beast. “I can only think about that night, that night with all those gunshots going off, and I’m hiding behind a bush. I’m going to have my weapon out protecting myself as well,” he said.
The Lynch family has reiterated their calls for the federal authorities to step up the investigation.
“We’re upset, but not shocked,” Donovan’s father, Wayne Lynch, said at a press conference shortly after the decision was announced. This isn’t the end; it’s only the beginning.”
“I demand justice for my son,” he stated emphatically.
The Lynch family has launched a $50 million lawsuit against the city of Virginia Beach, which could lead to justice. Simmons’ shooting of his son, according to the elder Lynch, was “illegal” and without notice. The city has filed a motion to dismiss it, but the family’s case may have some merit.
The defense must explain why Simmons’ body camera was not turned on. VBPD personnel is required to wear “body cameras as another tool to acquire evidence, offer information about police interactions, promote accountability, and strengthen the connections we have within the community,” according to the city’s website.
Furthermore, the “smoking gun” is that Lynch’s gun, which was discovered with one round placed in the chamber, was never discharged.
Because of the police-involved shooting, Lynch’s famous cousin, Grammy-winning artist Pharrell Williams, canceled his Something in the Water Festival in Virginia Beach this past October. The city contacted the star in the hopes that he would change his decision. That isn’t going to happen. The “Happy” singer wrote a public letter to them, saying that the city had “toxic energy” and that he demanded a federal investigation into the murder.
“I wish the same passion I saw from Virginia Beach leadership after losing the festival had been channeled similarly following the loss of my relative’s life,” he continued.