VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The family of Donovon Lynch, who was fatally shot by a Virginia Beach Police officer at the Oceanfront in March, held a press conference after the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's attorney announced the officer would not be charged in Lynch's death.
The press conference was held at the HIVE at 140 Independence Boulevard on December 1 at 1 p.m.
During the conference, family members, friends and supporters called for accountability and transparency from the city, as well as a federal investigation into Lynch's shooting death after a special grand jury's written report found no probable cause to charge Officer Solomon Simmons in Lynch's death.
The report found that the officer acted in justifiable self-defense for himself and others and found no credible evidence that Lynch was shot by anyone but police.
The president of Due the Right Things, a nonprofit seeking to "establish an open and transparent platform to express opinions and ideas to advance justice, fairness and accountability," posed seven questions that "need to be asked" in the wake of Lynch's death.
The questions he asked were as follows:
- "The Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney made a statement saying the investigation spent a lot of time dealing with assertions. An investigation should be an investigation, dealing with facts. What were the facts?
- "We continue to see attacks on Donovon Lynch's character, including his size and blood alcohol content. One of the court's recommendations (#4) is that police officers should be tested for alcohol and drugs following an officer-involved shooting. Was that done?
- "The Second Amendment should apply to everybody. The question we're asking, based on what was presented yesterday, is what did Donovon Lynch do that was illegal?
- "First, the city said there was no body camera footage. Now all of a sudden we have hundreds of hours. When will we see all of the footage, including the interviews conducted?
- "Someone made a comment that other DNA was on Donovon Lynch's weapon. Was it tested against the officers who were at the scene?
- "Since Donovon Lynch was pronounced dead after he was moved, did moving him contribute to his death? Did the bullets shift during the movement?
- "The family and all of us standing here, we're not anti-police. It's interesting that on the bodycam footage, we saw officers, prior to Donovon being shot, showing constraint. Why wasn't that constraint shown with Donovon?"
Donovon's father, Wayne Lynch, also spoke at the press conference, calling for justice for his son and describing how Donovon's death impacted his family. He also commended the unknown person who stopped to render aid to Donovon after he was shot, saying, "That man's a hero. He shouldn't be vilified."
"This is not over. It's just begun," he added.
The mother of Deshayla Harris, a reality star who was shot and killed the same night as Donovon, closed out the press conference by saying that she stands with the Lynch family and wants answers about what happened to her daughter. Deshayla's death is still unsolved.
"Our children were good children," she said. "They saw the police and thought they were safe."
Hall of Famer Bruce Smith; Grammy award winner Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native and Donovon's cousin; Reverend Dr. William Barber and a number of local community activists all called for a federal investigation into the fatal shooting earlier this year.
According to the press release, Lynch's family "contends that nothing presented in the press conference today exonerates the officer who shot Donovon." They also reportedly think an independent investigation by the FBI would give them the truth.
Following Wednesday's press conference, the FBI office in Norfolk released a statement saying, “The Norfolk FBI Field Office is aware of the situation regarding the officer-involved shooting of Donovon Lynch and will review all available facts of the incident to determine what federal response is warranted.”
The City of Virginia Beach released a statement about the grand jury decision after Tuesday's press conference, saying in part, "The death of Donovon Lynch was a tragedy, and his family has endured an unfathomable loss. The grand jury's conclusion does not change that fact. Neither does it change how people feel about what happened that night."
Though he doesn't represent Virginia Beach, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va., 3rd District) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterating his earlier demand for a federal investigation into the police conduct and killing Lynch.
“The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Virginia Beach announced yesterday that he will not file criminal charges against the officer involved in the fatal shooting leaving many questions unanswered about what occurred that evening,” wrote Congressman Scott. “I remain concerned with public reports of how this matter has been handled by VBPD, the divergent accounts of the events leading to Mr. Lynch’s death, and to what occurred immediately after the shooting. I urge you to move swiftly to utilize the full resources and transparency of the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation.”
Scott's letter is a follow-up to a request he made to Garland in April.
The City of Virginia Beach will now conduct an administrative investigation to determine if the officer followed department procedures.
The newly authorized independent citizen review board will also review the case.
The Lynch family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the City of Virginia Beach in June.
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