A Virginia Beach police officer won’t face criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Donovon Lynch, The Washington Post reported
Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle said at a news conference on Tuesday that a special grand jury declined to issue any indictments against Officer Solomon D. Simmons, who shot and killed Lynch.
Lynch’s family filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against Simmons and the city saying that Lynch, 25, posed no threat at the time of the incident and was fired upon by Simmons without any warning.
Stolle said that the special jury found that Simmons acted in self-defense and in the defense of others when the incident took place.
“There were numerous people in that parking lot when Officer Simmons saw Mr. Lynch starting to come up with the firearm,” Stolle said, via The Post. “It is not only just whether the weapon was pointed at Mr. Simmons, but also, are the people in the parking lot at risk.”
In an interview with investigators, Simmons said he arrived to respond to an incident in which more than 50 gunshots had taken place at a parking lot in the city’s oceanfront. He then encountered Lynch, who was making his way to his vehicle.
Simmons told investigators he noticed someone “out of place” while he was leaving the parking lot area, saying he thought he heard a firearm being cocked.
He then said he saw a male crouched behind bushes — Lynch — who rose and brandished a weapon, according to The Post. Simmons, who is also Black, per the Post, said he thought the male was going to open fire on officers and other pedestrians at the parking lot.
“He turned around toward me,” Simmons told investigators “I remember firing three rounds, three gunshots at him.”
Lynch’s family said he was legally carried a gun since he sometimes worked in security, The Post reported.
The shooting has stirred protests and controversy that has brought national attention to the incident. Lynch was also a cousin of the famed musical artist Pharrell Williams, who recently wrote a letter to Virginia Beach’s city government blaming them for the racial tension in his native city.
“The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2.”
A friend of Lynch's, Darrion March, offered a very different version of events to the Pos — one that authorities in Virginia Beach has said are not borne out by their investigation.
He said that he was behind Lynch at the time of the shooting, and that he did not see his friend pull out a gun. He also said that Simmons fired without warning. Simmons said he shouted something at Lynch before firing his weapon.
Stolle at the press conference said March and two other witnesses had declined to talk to detectives, according to the Post, which led him to call the special grand jury that can subpoena witnesses. He also took issue with statements from an attorney for the family of Lynch, saying his claims that police moved Lynch's body to cover up the shooting were false.