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Former college athlete and a reality TV star killed in Virginia Beach Oceanfront shootings

Donovon Lynch, 25, was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer. The police chief said Deshayla Harris, 29, was a bystander who was hit by a stray bullet.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A former college athlete and a reality TV star were shot and killed during a chaotic Friday night along the Oceanfront.

Donovon Lynch, 25, and Deshayla Harris, 29, died of separate shootings minutes apart and less than 500 feet away.

Donovon Lynch, 25, of Virginia Beach 

“He was the epitome of positivity,” said Jazmin Sherard, a longtime friend of Lynch. “If you saw him, you smiled.”

Sherard has known Lynch since middle school and said the Virginia Beach native loved his family and volunteered in his community. Lynch graduated from the University of Virginia College at Wise with a degree in physical education, according to his Linkedin page. He is also listed as a former football player on the school’s athletic department website.

Once listed as 6-foot-4, 325 pounds, Sherard described Lynch as tall, but cuddly. She said they shared an interest in marketing, and Lynch was starting his own company. His Instagram account lists him as the C.E.O. of Lead By Example Management.

“A life just gone so soon, so soon,” she said.

A Virginia Beach Police Officer shot and killed Lynch in the 300 block of 20th Street near the Virginia Beach Oceanfront Friday night. Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the officer did not activate his body camera – so there is no footage.

Credit: Instagram: wasssupdon__ (Donovon Lynch account)

Neudigate said a gun was recovered at the scene, but there is currently no evidence linking it to Lynch. In an earlier release, the department described a then-unidentified-Lynch as “an armed citizen.”

The Virginia Beach Police Department, along with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, is approaching this situation as a criminal investigation.

The officers involved had not been interviewed as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Neudigate said the department will seek to determine why the officer did not activate the body camera, which he called an expectation.

Credit: Instagram: wasssupdon__ (Donovon Lynch account)

Robby Manson, a former high school classmate, was working at his job on the Oceanfront the night of the shooting. He learned of Lynch’s death on social media the next morning.

“He was a good dude. He wasn’t reckless, ignorant, nothing. He wasn’t even the person to have a gun or carry a gun, you know,” he said.

Deshayla Harris, 29, of Norfolk 

A quick walk away -- on 19th Street -- a stray bullet killed 29-year-old Deshayla Harris.

“We truly feel that she was innocent bystander who was struck by stray gunfire,” said Neudigate.

Credit: Instagram: misshaybae (Deshayla Harris account)

Harris is from Norfolk, but lived in Virginia Beach, according to her Facebook page.

In 2017, she was a star of the seventeenth and final season of the Oxygen television show, Bad Girls Club, TMZ reports.

Attempts to contact her relatives were not immediately returned. However, her fans shared tributes on social media platforms upon news of her death.

Police do not know who pulled the trigger or have any suspects in her killing. Another person was hurt in that shooting.

Credit: Instagram: misshaybae (Deshayla Harris account)
29-year-old Deshayla Harris of Norfolk was shot and killed during a chaotic night at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in March of 2021.

Their deaths were part of a violent night along the Oceanfront that resulted in 10 people hurt in three separate shooting incidents. Three people have been arrested for the first reported shooting, also in proximity.

A Virginia State Police spokesperson confirmed the agency had not been contacted to participate in the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Lynch.

“Right now, that has not been our historical practice,” Neudigate responded when asked if the department would consider an external investigation aside from the Commonwealth’s Attorney office.

“If we do turn over that investigation over to VSP, I am not able to stand in front of my community and answer the hard questions,” he said. “It’s definitely something we can consider driven by the expectation of the Virginia Beach community.”

Neudigate said investigators are still in the fact-gathering stage. 

Sherard said friends and family are having a hard time understanding how the person who always remained positive and made people smile could end up in this situation.

“Donovan was not the type of guy to bother anyone. He was full of love. And I want the world to know that,” said Sherard.

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