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.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney released this statement following Tuesday's press conference:
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.
The city 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.
Lynch's family held a press conference Wednesday.
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.
"This is not over. It's just begun," Wayne Lynch, Donovon's father, said.
In an interview with News 3 Wednesday, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the decision will weigh heavily on the community for some time.
"This was a tragic, horrific occurrence for Mr. Lynch [and] everyone involved in our community," Chief Neudigate told News 3. "We wish that these would never have occurred, but unfortunately, they do. Now, we have an obligation to take a look at them and see where can make any changes where appropriate."
Chief Neudigate said he hopes the big takeaway is police hearing immediate concerns on calls for an outside, independent investigation.
"As an organization, the Virginia Beach Police Department had never asked for an outside entity to come in and investigate a police-involved shooting prior to this," he said. "This speaks to the changing nature of law enforcement and the Virginia Beach Police Department."
News 3 also asked Chief Neudigate to clarify conflicting statements during the investigation as to whether Lynch had a firearm at the time of the incident.
The special grand jury report ultimately indicated that Lynch did have a gun.
"When an incident like this occurs, we’re trying to give the community immediate information," Chief Neudigate said. "But, like I said during my press conferences, it’s all preliminary. We had not done any formal interviews. We had not reviewed any body-worn camera footage at that point. So, everything that we’re getting is just from being on the scene and having some conversations."
As for changes since the shooting, Chief Neudigate said the department has taken steps to improve transparency, especially with body cameras.
He told News 3 they now have 100% deployment, from the chief to new recruits.
"We now give the body cams to our brand new recruits very early on in the first week instead of the end of the training academy, so they’re really versed in the use and it becomes second nature," Chief Neudigate said.
Also, Chief Neudigate mentioned VBPD's body cameras, once the officer hits record, can automatically go back and record two minutes of video.
"I think there is an opinion out there that the police are resistant to body cams, and that is absolutely not true," Neudigate said. "It helps protect us where we’re engaged in proper activity, it helps us build strong cases and it gives the community that sense of accountability and transparency that they’re looking for."
When asked about the Lynch family's call for a federal investigation, Chief Neudigate said that's up to the U.S. Attorney to look at the facts and review the case.
News 3 reached out to the FBI's Norfolk field office regarding the investigation.
A spokesperson for the office told News 3 they are aware of the situation regarding the officer-involved shooting of Lynch and will review all available facts of the incident to determine what federal response is warranted.