Musician Pharrell Williams said Monday night that his cousin, Donovon Lynch, 25, was killed by police during a chaotic night of violence in Virginia Beach, Virginia last Friday.
Police said there were three separate shootings, and two people, Virginia Beach resident Lynch and 29-year old Deshayla E. Harris, were killed and eight injured.
“The loss of these lives is a tragedy beyond measure,” Williams wrote. “My cousin Donovon was killed during the shootings. He was a bright light and someone who always showed up for others. It is critical my family and the other victims’ families get the transparency, honesty and justice they deserve. Virginia Beach is the epitome of hope and tenacity and, as a community, we will get through this and come out even stronger.”
Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said Saturday he believes Harris was an “innocent victim that was probably struck by stray gunfire in some regards.”
He said that Lynch was killed during a “police intervention shooting.” In a statement, police said two officers present said Lynch was “brandishing a handgun at the time of the shooting.”
“An independent witness affirmed that Mr. Lynch had been in possession of a handgun earlier on the evening of March 26, 2021,” the department said in a post on Facebook, which also included photos of the weapons recovered after the shooting.
The responding officers did not have their body cameras turned on, Neudigate said.
Protesters gathered over the weekend, The Virginian Pilot reported, and some disputed the report Lynch had been armed.
The Virginia Beach NAACP in a release on Monday said it was “distressed” to hear of the deaths of Lynch and Harris.
“We are not surprised of the revelation that the body camera of the officer involved in the death of Mr. Lynch was not activated,” the organization wrote. “Disciplinary actions surrounding an officer misconduct shot not be withheld from the public under the pretext ‘it’s a personnel issue.’ This has been the case in the past. Transparency of police disciplinary is required now.”
The organization accused the police department of failing “on all accounts.”
“The $5.5 million implementation investment on body-worn cameras is worthless when officers do not turn the camera on for recording,” the statement from Karen Hills Pruden, the president of the chapter reads. “Mr. Lynch is not here to tell his side! The officer involved has no reason to be forthcoming about any facts that places him in an adverse light.”
The NAACP called for a citizen review board with full investigative and subpoena powers and for police officers who use deadly force to be reviewed by a statewide board tied to officer recertification credentials.
On Monday, VBPD said that once the criminal investigation is complete, “all statements and evidence will be submitted” to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which is “conducting a separate investigation into this incident, independent of” the police department.
Jay Jones, a delegate from the Norfolk area in Virginia’s House of Delegates, called Sunday for an investigation by the state’s attorney general into the shooting death.
“We need far better accountability and transparency, and the families of those killed by police, in Virginia Beach and across this country, deserve answers,” he tweeted.
"The Virginia Beach Chief of Police Paul W. Neudigate formally requested on March 29, 2021 that the Virginia State Police assume the investigation of the officer-involved shooting on March 26, 2021," Jennifer Cragg, Virginia Beach Police Department media and communications coordinator, told TODAY in an email on Tuesday. "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."
Lynch was a student-athlete at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and played on the school’s football team as an offensive lineman in 2017 and 2018.
Williams is originally from Virginia Beach and organizes the Something in the Water music festival which was held in 2019 and canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival’s website says they are planning on holding another in 2022.