VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A special grand jury said the Virginia Beach police officer who shot and killed Donovon Lynch was justified, finding the officer acted in "self-defense of himself and others."
Officer Solomon Simmons will not face any charges.
Investigators said there's no evidence or testimony that Lynch pointed his gun directly at Simmons or any other officer, but witnesses said he was holding his gun following the sound of gunshots and reports of multiple shootings near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on March 26.
Since that day, Lynch's family and the community have demanded answers about what happened.
There is no video of the actual shooting, as Officer Simmons did not have his body camera activated at the time - an inaction that has since sparked VBPD to change its body camera policies.
Tuesday, investigators with the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's office shared body camera videos from other police officers, witness statements, maps of the shootings, and an interview with Officer Simmons during an hours-long presentation that detailed the justified verdict.
Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle said he needed a special grand jury to investigate the case after key witnesses refused to talk to the Virginia State Police.
"We needed to hear what these individuals had to say, the only way that could happen was through the handling of a special grand jury and allowing them to issue subpoenas to then come in and give their testimony," Stolle said.
In its report, the special grand jury said video evidence and witness testimony showed Officer Simmons "perceived a threat to himself and others" before shooting and killing Lynch - leading to a ruling of justification.
Simmons shot and killed Lynch near a street corner at 20th street and Pacific Avenue at the Oceanfront.
Simmons told investigators that Lynch was turned away from him, crouched, with a gun in his hand, facing a 19th street parking lot where 50 shots had been fired minutes earlier, according to police.
The special grand jury called that parking lot a "war zone" in its report.
Simmons said he heard Lynch “rack” his gun, shouted something at Lynch, and then Lynch started to rise up and turn towards him.
That’s when Simmons fired three shots, hitting Lynch twice – once in the left shoulder and once in the left leg.
Investigators said Simmons never said that Lynch pointed a gun directly at him, nor did any witness say Lynch was pointing his gun at an officer.
Body camera videos show officers trying to save Lynch’s life immediately following the shooting. About 6 minutes later, some officers moved Lynch about a block away for medical attention.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Scott Lang said Lynch was moved because it was "dangerous to treat him" so close to where 50 shots were fired.
Lang said a gun - legally carried by Lynch - was found a few feet from his body with a bullet in the chamber. No shots were fired from Lynch's gun.
Investigators showed body camera video from Officer Simmons from earlier in the night - when he had his camera turned on while responding to a separate shooting.
They said Simmons then turned his camera off while following an ambulance with a shooting victim to the hospital.
When more gunshots were reported, Simmons returned to the chaotic scene and did not reactivate his body camera, leading to policy changes within VBPD.
Lynch was the lone person shot by a VBPD officer Monday night.
DeShayla Harris died as the result of one of the other shootings. A number of people were hurt in a third shooting.
Shortly after the incident, Virginia State Police took over the investigation from the Virginia Beach Police Department. That investigation ran concurrently with an investigation by the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney.
In August, a special grand jury was called to investigate the incident.
Lynch's father, Wayne Lynch, filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against the City of Virginia Beach and the officer whom he said killed Lynch, Solomon Simmons III. He claimed the shooting was unlawful, without warning, and that Simmons failed to render life-saving medical aid.
Wayne Lynch spoke to 13News Now's Janet Roach following the announcement. He did not appear on camera and said the family will release a full statement on Wednesday.
However, he did say his family is disappointed and they are still processing the news.
Following the update, Simmons released the following statement:
I am gratified that the Special Grand Jury confirmed my actions on March 26, 2021 to be entirely justified and am pleased to have my name cleared of any wrongdoing. The past eight months have been a trying time for me and my family, as I am sure it has been for the Lynch family. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that night. As the Grand Jury's report stated, I was placed in an incredibly chaotic situation, one that required me to make a difficult, split-second decision. My heart goes out to the Lynch family for their loss, and I will continue to pray for them as I have done every day since this happened.
Grammy award-winning artist Pharrell Williams, who is Lynch's cousin, sent a letter to Virginia Beach city leaders casting doubt on his Something in the Water Festival returning in 2022. He expressed disappointment with the city's response to the death of his cousin, saying the city has "toxic energy."
A timeline of Tuesday's press conference and clips of some of the body camera videos are shared below.
Tuesday's update began with a breakdown of the events that happened on March 26, starting with an earlier incident where Simmons provided aid to a different gunshot victim.
Simmons' body camera would be turned off before the confrontation with Lynch and Lynch's death.
Simmons did not complete his trip to the hospital with the shooting victim, returning to the Oceanfront area after reports of more shots fired.
Simmons shot Lynch twice, in his left leg and left shoulder. Investigators said one of the bullets hit Lynch's phone in his pocket.
Body camera footage from different VBPD officers who were nearby provided audio from a witness to the shooting of Lynch. Simmons also said "I shot him" before officers walked him away from the scene.
A witness who was next to Lynch when he was shot fled the scene due to felony arrest warrants he had that were outstanding. Other witnesses initially refused to cooperate with the state police investigation.
Six minutes after Lynch was shot, he was moved, due to the dangerous nature of the events going on around them, investigators said.
Several witnesses refused to talk with Virginia State Police. One witness said that Simmons had stated that Lynch had a gun when he confronted him.
An additional witness stated that Lynch did have a gun and that he allegedly cocked it back before being shot by Simmons.
A nearby witness helped police give medical aid.
Investigators then began to go in-depth into interview information and forensic evidence from the scene.
Watch the full news conference below: