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This weekend marks one year since 8 were shot, 2 others killed in Virginia Beach Oceanfront violence

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Posted at 3:09 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 16:02:52-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - This weekend marks one year since a chaotic night at the Oceanfront left 10 people shot. Two of them died.

On Saturday night, the families of Donovon Lynch and Deshayla Harris gathered in the area where it all happened for a candlelight vigil. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. around 20th Street and Pacific Avenue.

On March 26, 2021, several incidents happened right around the same time just after 11 pm. In one, eight people were shot in an exchange of gunfire.

“On this somber occasion of the tragic murder of my son Donovon and Deshayla harris. They are two wonderful people,” Wayne Lynch, Donovon Lynch’s Father said.

Another led to a Virginia Beach Police officer shooting and killing 25-year-old Donovon Lynch. The officer was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. Lynch's family is suing and the case remains ongoing.

“His rights were violated to the maximum. Far too long, it’s been assertions, half truths and lies. We want transparency and accountability,” Lynch said.

In another incident, a stray bullet hit and killed 28-year old Harris, who was an innocent bystander and out for a night with friends. No arrests have been made in her killing.

News 3 spoke with Harris' mother, Elisheba, on Friday about the anniversary. When asked if it felt like yesterday or forever, she responded, "Forever. I am still on last year — March 26 at 11:42 p.m. I'm still living on that same day. Nothing has changed in my life, so every day is the same thing. It's like a nightmare."

Elisheba says she is working with police and is pleading for anyone with information to come forward.

“This battle for me is a little harder because we don’t know who did it. Mr. Lynch is on his way because at least he has somebody accountable for it. We don’t so we get strung along a little longer and harder because we don’t know,” Elisheba said.

No,w both parents are calling for an end to gun violence.

"Deshayla was a giving person and she wanted to give back to the community, where she was just starting her journey," Elisheba Harris said.

Since the shooting, the police department has made changes including to the body camera policy. Every officer now has one and officers are required to activate them on the way to calls. The city also adding things like more lighting to try and increase safety.

“We cannot continue to accept this as normal. With each passing year, there are more horrific incidents of violence against our young people occurring in record numbers. It could be me, it could be you, it could be one of your kids. So I know the community knows something. No one wants to speak up,” Elisheba said.

Still, the incidents have permanently altered the lives of the people hit in the gunfire and their families. "I'm going to continue to help her on her journey even though she's not here because she's living through us. She's living through her family," said Harris.

The vigil gave a chance for the community to pause and remember what happened," Elisheba said. "It is needed for people to come out, especially people in the community, to come out and just show the support of, you know, that we are standing together. We're standing as one as a community."

Virginia Beach Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten also at the vigil.

“We’re doing what we’re suppose to do, seek justice. This is a journey. As you know the journey for justice has never been easy. It never will be easy,” Councilwoman Wooten said.

Lynch’s father, Wayne, says he’s still fighting for justice.

“We have a petition drive soon. We’ll have signatures we can take to the Department of Justice. We go have a convoy going to D.C. All those with me, say, 'Yeah.'” 

News 3 asked VBPD for a statement about the anniversary of the shooting. Here's what they said:

Within 72 hours of the March 26, 2021, Officer Involved Shooting (OIS), Chief Neudigate heard the calls for an outside, independent investigation. Thus, for what is believed to be the first time in the history of the VBPD, the Chief requested the Virginia State Police (VSP) assume the criminal investigation of the OIS to provide the transparency sought by numerous entities.

Over several months, the VSP diligently investigated the police shooting, while simultaneously the Virginia Beach Office of the Commonwealth Attorney (OCA) conducted their own independent investigation. The results of both those investigations were presented to a Special Grand Jury comprised of citizens of the City of Virginia Beach. After spending several months reviewing information, statements, bodycam footage, and all relevant evidence, the Special Grand Jury concluded there was no criminal culpability on the part of the involved officer. Both the resulting VBPD internal administrative investigation and a civil case are ongoing.

Since then, the VBPD has benefitted from several advancements in technology and process to advance the accountability the community expects of law enforcement and aid our officers in capturing video evidence of criminal activity for enhanced prosecution and conviction.

We cannot forget that on this tragic night, the Virginia Beach community also suffered from a multi-victim shooting and the untimely death of Ms. Deshayla Harris in a third separate shooting offense.
Virginia Beach Police Department