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Virginia Beach NAACP calls for change after officer's body cam was not activated during fatal Oceanfront shooting

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Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 00:17:27-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach Branch NAACP is calling for a Citizen Review Board with full investigative and subpoena powers after the deadly Oceanfront shootings that took place Friday night.

The city's NAACP branch issued a press release stating their concerns regarding the recent shootings that took the lives of Donovan W. Lynch and Deshayla E. Harris.

The fatal shooting of Lynch involved a Virginia Beach Police officer. Chief Paul Neudigate held a press conference Saturday to provide updates on the shootings.

When police responded to the deadly shooting of 29-year-old Harris, they say the officer saw someone with a gun in the vicinity, which led to an officer shooting Lynch.

When asked if there was evidence that the gun found in near the scene belonged to Lynch or if he was armed at the time of the shooting, Neudigate had this to say: "No; at this point, no. We’re still very early in the investigation."

Later Monday, VBPD released an update saying homicide detectives interviewed the officer involved in the shooting, another officer who witnessed the shooting and independent witnesses. Both officers reportedly said Lynch was "brandishing a handgun" at the time of the shooting. They say an independent witness said Lynch had a gun earlier that evening.

Chief Neudigate revealed that the officer who fatally shot Lynch, body camera was not activated at the time of the shooting. Virginia Beach NAACP says they are not surprised by that revelation.

"Disciplinary actions surrounding an officer misconduct should not be withheld from the public under the pretext. It’s a personnel issue. This has been the case in the past. Transparency of police disciplinary is required now," Virginia Beach NAACP President Dr. Karen Hills Pruden stated.

The city launched a body-worn camera project of 450 body-worn cameras and 250 in-car dash cameras, a $5.5M implementation investment. They began issuing the first phase of cameras in July 2018.

The policy states, “Officers shall activate their BWC immediately upon arriving at a scene in the performance of his/her duties.”

Consequence for failing to follow policy appear to only be applicable if the camera is intentionally left off.

The city's NAACP is calling for the following:

  1. The Use of Force Continuum with at least 6 steps with clear levels of escalation
  2. The ability to review officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories (via Open Records Act)
  3. The ability to review the police department’s records of disciplining or charging officers with misconduct,
  4. A statewide review board for police officers who use deadly force-tied to officer re-certification credentials.

"We will not stand by silently while an African American citizen has been shot down in this ‘Resort City,’" the release ends with.

Chief Neudigate said the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is overseeing the investigation, but they would consider turning it over to another agency.