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Virginia Beach police chief addresses 'horrific and devastating' Oceanfront shootings during city council special meeting

Council members Aaron Rouse and Sabrina Wooten pressed Chief Neudigate on why the officer's body camera wasn't activated during the encounter with Donovon Lynch.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach council members held a special meeting to discuss Friday night's three separate shootings at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

City Manager Patrick Duhaney started the meeting by saying, "The events that unfolded in the city late on Friday, March 26th, by any measure both horrific and devastating."

Duhaney called the incidents “senseless acts of violence,” and gave his condolences to the victims and their families. He said city leaders are examining every avenue to prevent this from happening again. He called the officer’s body camera video not being activated is a “serious problem.” Duhaney said the city wants to be transparent, thorough and expeditious as possible, given the permeators of a criminal investigation.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate opened himself up to a barrage of questions -- including why an officer's camera wasn't activated -- from City Council members during Tuesday's special meeting but he started by updating council on the details on Friday’s shooting that left two dead and several others injured.

Neudigate said, “I truly appreciate the opportunity to come in and discuss process and to clear up some of the lingering questions that we have in our community.”

The chief said he was only able to provide a general overview of the three shooting incidents because they are continuing criminal investigations and he doesn’t want to taint a potential prosecution. 

The first shooting happened at 20th Street and Atlantic Avenue. Neudigate said five men were seen shooting and the bullets hit nine people. Six were men, three were women.

“Of the three females, one is in serious condition and it is anticipated that she will be hospitalized for quite some time,” Neudigate explained. 

The chief said a second precinct officer was in the area at the time of the shooting and was able to arrest a suspect after a foot pursuit. So far, three men are charged in the shooting.

22-year-old Ahmon Adams of Chesapeake, 20-year-old Devon Dorsey Jr., and 19-year-old Nyquez Baker from Virginia Beach face seven counts of malicious wounding and gun charges.

Chief Neudigate said the suspects arrested are connected to two local gangs. Detectives recovered 14 firearms from this one shooting. The chief said they were able to arrest and charge people quickly because an officer was on the scene, a city pole camera and private camera captured the incident, and police recognized some of the suspects. 

Neudigate also said they arrested three other men over the weekend. Gerald Thomas II, 35, Jhaimeek Carter, 19, and Tyereis Smith, 18, all are accused of selling guns to convicted felons. They also face other charges.

The 300 block of 19th Street is where Deshayla Harris was killed by a stray bullet, the police chief said. He said she was walking with friends when a bullet hit her. Neudigate said an officer provided life-saving efforts. Police have not announced if they have arrested anyone in this case. At that scene, police recovered three firearms and 56 shell casings. Nine vehicles were hit by gunfire during that shooting.

Neudigate said, “The current status of the investigation is now focusing on an exchange of gunfire  between multiple parties in the 19th Street Lot.”

As for the officer-involved shooting, several organizations, including the ACLU and NAACP, called for the police department to turn over its investigation to an outside agency. At the special meeting, Neudigate said State Police will take over the investigation

Neudigate said homicide investigators were able to interview the officer who shot and killed Donavon Lynch, another officer, and a witness. He said investigators conducted another canvas of the area on Sunday and they are currently reviewing city cameras to see if any portion of this incident was captured. 

“At this point in time, we have no video from a city camera,” he said.

The chief said he wants transparency as much as the community wants transparency, but said it is hard to be transparent when they have very little information to guide their response in their investigation. 

Timeline of events

In one of the shootings -- at 20th and Atlantic Avenue -- nine people were injured. One of the victims, a woman, is still in serious condition and will be in the hospital for a while, Neudigate said. Police apprehend 14 firearms at that scene.

Neudigate updated the council on the police shooting investigation. He said there is no video of the encounter, not even street cameras. He told council members it’s hard to be transparent when they have little information.

Council members Aaron Rouse and Sabrina Wooten pressed Neudigate on why the officer's body camera wasn't activated.

Neudigate said the holster that would’ve triggered the officer’s body camera to automatically record once the gun was taken out is on backorder and doesn’t fit the department's current equipment. 

A Virginia Beach police officer was also hurt that night when he was hit by a car. The Chief said the officer was treated and released from the hospital and is in good spirits. 

Malik Kearney was arrested and is facing a DUI and hit and run charges in connection with that incident.

Court documents released Tuesday said as a police officer responded to one of the Oceanfront shootings, he watched Kearney hit another officer with his car. It goes on to say that officer rolled on the hood and documents say the car then hit a pole. The car kept driving at a high rate of speed. The two officers eventually stopped the car and held Kearney at gunpoint.

Documents said Kearney didn’t recall hitting the officer and said he was trying to get away because of the gunshots.

Court paperwork said he denied having a gun, but officers found shell casings in his car and eventually found a gun. However, Kearney does have a permit to carry. Kearney allegedly admitted to shooting back at other people out of fear they were shooting at him.

Kearney said he did not see the officer he hit and feels sorry for him. It went on to say, he was scared and takes responsibility for what happened.

Aftermath of Oceanfront shootings

Council members expressed their concerns about the safety at the Oceanfront in the aftermath.

Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney called the incidents "horrific and devastating."

Neudigate said the department is increasing the number of police officers in the area this summer. He said some of the changes are not a long-term solution.

The department is short-staffed by 100 officers. Neudigate said he would request 150 to 200 more officers to fully staff the precincts. 

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