In the spring of 2021, Pharrell Williams spent his 48th birthday honouring his 25-year-old cousin, Donovan Lynch, who was killed in the Virginia Beach shootings that took place just days before. Now, The Star reports that the police officer responsible for the young man’s death has been cleared by a special grand jury.
During Tuesday’s two-hour news conference, prosecutors said that Officer Solomon D. Simmons was “justified in protecting himself and others in the moments after Lynch racked a round into his handgun’s chamber and stood — pointing his weapon toward a parking lot filled with multiple people and police.”
The atmosphere in Virginia Beach at the time was chaotic, to say the least. Lynch and a friend were said to have been visiting the city’s boardwalk, lined with restaurants and hotels, as hundreds of people usually do on warm, spring evenings. What started out like any other night quickly turned into a nightmare when separate eruptions of gunfire were heard. At least eight people sustained injuries, and one woman (believed to be a bystander) was killed.
Lynch, who was an offensive lineman for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise team back in 2017 and 2018, was killed after this bout of action, The Star notes. Prosecutors showed footage from multiple police body cameras in the minutes before and after his death, and also provided witness statements.
In a videotaped statement, Simmons explained that Lynch seemed “out of place,” and was holding a gun while crouched in some bushes near the parking lot where the shooting had taken place when he heard a weapon being “racked.” “I’m thinking he’s going to start shooting into the parking lot” Simmons said.
The officer recalled saying something to Lynch, although he doesn’t remember exactly what. As the armed man began to turn, Simmons fired, fatally wounding him. In a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit, Wayne Lynch claimed that his son was killed “immediately, unlawfully and without warning.”
Donovan’s friend, Darrion Marsh, who is said to have witnessed the shooting, told the Virginian-Pilot that “Lynch never took the gun out of his cargo shorts,” although the prosecutor pointed out that body cam footage from officers who arrived within 25-30 seconds fails to show Marsh in the immediate area.
News of grand jury’s decision wasn’t received well by Wayne, and Pharrell reportedly sent a letter to city officials last month to inform them that his Something in the Water music festival won’t be coming back to Virginia Beach, partially due to their handling of the investigation into his cousin’s death.
Read more about the initial shooting here. RIP Donovan Lynch.