VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach police officer who shot and killed Donovon Lynch this March at the Oceanfront now claims Lynch pointed a gun at him before the fatal shots were fired.
The new allegations came in a response to a federal lawsuit filed by Lynch’s father. The suit filed by Wayne Lynch in June requested a jury trial and $50 million in damages from the officer, Solomon D. Simmons III, and the city.
The lawsuit says Simmons used excessive force and acted with gross negligence when he shot and killed Lynch, and that the city failed to properly train officers on the use of deadly force and other techniques that would have prevented Lynch’s death.
Lynch, 25, was a former offensive lineman for the University of Virginia College at Wise, and a cousin of musician Pharrell Williams.
In the motion from Simmons’ lawyers, Simmons said he heard what sounded like the slide of a handgun placing a bullet in the chamber when he responded to gunshots in the area. When Simmons turned around, he said he saw Lynch crouching behind shrubbery. Lynch and his friend Darrion Marsh had being fleeing the area after police responded to gunshots and were headed toward their cars to leave, the lawsuit says. Marsh told the Virginian-Pilot that Lynch did not have his gun out at the time of the shooting.
Simmons claims he announced himself, contradicting Marsh’s account, and says Lynch turned with a firearm in hand and pointed it in Simmons’ direction. Simmons said he feared for his life before firing the fatal shots.
Simmons, who attorneys say knew Lynch beforehand, did not have his body camera on for “unknown reasons,” police said. In the response filing, Simmons says he failed to turn on the body camera “because from the time he left his police cruiser to the time of Mr. Lynch’s shooting there existed the threat of deadly force on which Officer Simmons’ attention was focused …”
In stating his defense, Simmons says he’s entitled to qualified immunity because he had probable cause to believe Lynch was a threat and “there were no other options available other than the immediate use of lethal force.”
Simmons’ defense also claims Lynch “contributed to his death by (a) entering into an active shooting zone, (b) crouching unannounced behind shrubbery,(c) arming himself with a weapon, (d) placing a bullet into the chamber of the weapon during an active shooting situation, (e) rising and turning toward a police officer with the loaded weapon in hand, a bullet in the chamber, pointed at police officers, (f) all while, on information and belief, Mr. Lynch was under the influence of alcohol.”
Virginia Beach police had said Lynch was “brandishing” a gun and that a firearm was recovered at the scene. His family has also disputed that he brandished a gun and Lynch’s father told WAVY that Donovon owned a security company and was legally allowed to carry.
Virginia State Police are currently conducting an independent investigation into the shooting, and Simmons is on administrative leave in the meantime. Several other people were struck by gunfire that night at the Oceanfront, including DeShayla Harris, who was fatally shot in a separate incident.