Crime analyst talks self-defense laws pertaining to Donovon Lynch case

donovon lynch
Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 02, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - We know he had a gun, and the Commonwealth's Attorney has determined it was out and a round was in the chamber. But to this date, no one will confirm if Donovon Lynch was pointing his gun at the Virginia Beach Police officer who fatally shot him at the Oceanfront March 26.

"What did Donovon Lynch do that was illegal?" Donovon's father Wayne Lynch asked at a Wednesday press conference.

It's a question the Lynch family continues to mull over after Officer Solomon Simmons, the man who killed Donovon, was cleared of any charges.

"We only have one account, which is the officer's. We can't get the account of the victim, because he isn't alive," said Rick James, retired Norfolk Police officer, detective and now crime analyst.

While Simmons said he acted in self-defense, the Lynch family is wondering why the same wouldn't hold true for Donovon.

"There were gunshots everywhere, so it's reasonable to believe that Donovon knew he was in imminent danger," said Dr. Karen Pruden, the president of the Virginia Beach NAACP. "Defense of oneself and others is not just a police officer's right, it’s the right of all citizens."

James explained the self-defense law for citizens, saying, "A nonaggressor is justified in using force against another person if one - he has reason to believe he is in danger, two - force is necessary, and three - to protect himself from the imminent use of unlawful force by the other person."

As for Simmons' rights, James says it's similar, but law enforcement, due to extensive training, is held to a higher standard.

"Simmons has to explain why he was in imminent danger based on what is called a reasonable officer standard. Then and only then can he use deadly force," James said.

James says the moments leading up to the trigger being pulled are key.

"Did the officer identify himself as a police officer? Was he in uniform? Did he give him a warning or ask him to put the gun down?" James asked.

The answers to those questions are mostly unknown, as Simmons had his body camera off.

"If you don't have witnesses to come forward or video camera to record circumstances, the only thing left is the credibility of the officer. Is the officer a credible person that would tell the truth under oath?" James said.

News 3 previously reported that Simmons was on administrative leave pending an investigation by a citizen review board (CRB). VBPD clarified on Friday stating, "Officer Simmons continues to be assigned to a non-patrol administrative function. His future status will be determined by the Police Chief after the completion of an internal review. The CRB has no bearing in determining his duty status."

The Commonwealth also has no retreat or stand your ground law. That means you are not required to retreat or escape prior to using self-defense.