A Black man shot and killed by Virginia Beach police on Friday was “brandishing a handgun” at the time of his death, the Virginia Beach Police Department said Monday. The statement comes two days after cops said they were unsure whether 25-year-old Donovon Lynch was armed during the fatal confrontation.
The officer involved in the shooting had been wearing a body camera but had not activated it “for unknown reasons,” according to VBPD Chief Paul Neudigate.
“I don’t have a whole lot of answers,” Neudigate told reporters at a press conference after the shooting.
But the department now says Lynch was indeed holding a weapon when cops opened fire, citing interviews by homicide detectives with the officer involved in the shooting, an officer who witnessed the incident, and an unspecified number of independent witnesses.
“Both officers report that Mr. Lynch was brandishing a handgun at the time of the shooting,” the VBPD said in a statement. “It was recovered at the scene. An independent witness affirmed that Mr. Lynch had been in possession of a handgun earlier on the evening of March 26, 2021. The specific actions which resulted in the shooting are part of the ongoing criminal investigation.”
Lynch was one of two people killed in a spate of shootings in Virginia Beach on March 26 that wounded at least eight others. Authorities said there were three incidents involving guns within a short period of time along a busy tourist strip. The officer who shot Lynch is a five-year veteran of the force and has been placed on administrative leave, police said.
Reached by phone, Lynch’s father, Keith, declined to comment on the case. He told The Daily Beast that the family would be releasing a statement through their lawyer sometime this week.
Lynch graduated from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 2019 and was an offensive lineman on the football team. The young athlete was “definitely a joy to be around,” said UVA head football coach Dane Damron.
“Donovon was a kid who was full of life,” Damron told The Daily Beast. “He was boisterous, but in a good way. I don’t ever remember him not having a smile on his face… I truly believe that those he was around, he made better.”
Damron described helping Lynch through a difficult period when his mother died of cancer and that Lynch’s death is another tough loss.
“We’ve just got to find a way to turn this into a positive as much as we possibly can,” said Damron. “He touched a lot of people’s lives. We’ll put a ‘D.L.’ sticker on the back of our helmets for our last game. He was a good one.”
Superstar singer, songwriter, and producer Pharrell Williams took to Instagram on Monday to remember Lynch.
“My cousin Donovon was killed during the shootings,” Williams wrote. “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.”
Once the Virginia Beach Police Department has completed its investigation, all of the evidence gathered will be turned over to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which is conducting a separate investigation into Lynch’s death. The VBPD Internal Affairs Bureau will then begin its own inquiry into the officers’ actions that night.
Neudigate said he will provide an update on the case Tuesday afternoon during a special session of the Virginia Beach City Council.