State police to probe deadly Virginia Beach police shooting

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Police officers redirect traffic along Atlantic Avenue while Japharii Jones with Black Lives Matter 757 protests through a loud speaker demanding justice for Donovan Lynch in Virginia Beach, Va., on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Karen Zeis/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Virginia Beach police have turned over their investigation of an officer-involved shooting of a former college football player to Virginia State Police after the Black man’s death amid a rash of weekend shootings drew heightened public scrutiny.

Donovon W. Lynch, 25, was shot by a Virginia Beach police officer in the last of three separate shooting incidents along the city’s popular oceanfront strip of hotels and restaurants. The shootings left one other person dead and eight others wounded.

The case has drawn calls for a thorough and transparent investigation from such figures as Grammy-winning musician Pharrell Williams, who says Lynch was his cousin.

“The Lynch family and the involved officer each deserve a comprehensive and thorough investigation into this incident, and we appreciate the public’s patience as we pursue every facet of it,” Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said in a statement Tuesday.

Both Lynch and the police officer who shot him are Black. That officer and another officer who saw Lynch’s shooting have both said that Lynch had a handgun, police said Monday.

The city’s police department also said that a “separate, independent witness corroborated that Mr. Lynch was in possession of a handgun” earlier that evening. But the body camera worn by the officer who shot Lynch had not been activated for “unknown reasons,” according to police. said.

“We would like to provide the community answers,” the police chief said Saturday. “At this point we do not have them.”

Neudigate said his department on Monday formally requested that state police take the investigation.

That same day, Williams told his 10 million Twitter followers that Lynch was his cousin.

“It is critical my family and the other victims’ families get the transparency they deserve. VA Beach is the epitome of hope and we will get through this,” said the singer, songwriter and producer. Williams is also a Virginia Beach native.

Lynch, who lived in the coastal city, was an offensive lineman for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and a 2019 graduate of the school.

The officer who shot Lynch has been placed on administrative leave, police said. He has been with the department for five years and is assigned to its special operations division.

The Virginia Beach chapter of the NAACP said in a statement Sunday that it wasn’t surprised that the officer’s body camera wasn’t turned on. It said its members are “watching and listening for the department’s inquiry into this shooting and expect a thorough and expeditious report. The community is waiting!”

Virginia House Del. Jay Jones, a Democrat who is running for Attorney General, has called for the state AG to investigate.

“We need far better accountability and transparency, and the families of those killed by police, in Virginia Beach and across this country, deserve answers,” Jones said Sunday.

Lynch’s shooting was one of three separate shooting incidents that police said occurred within minutes of each other along Virginia Beach’s oceanfront.

Police said a gun battle broke out late Friday night from what appeared to be a fight involving a group of people. Several people were wounded by gunfire in the densely packed area, and three men have been arrested. Each faces seven counts of malicious wounding, among other charges.

Also killed in a separate weekend shooting was Deshayla E. Harris, 28, of Norfolk. Investigators said they believe Harris was likely a bystander struck by stray gunfire. No arrests were immediately made in her death.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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