Virginia Beach to Pay $3 Million Settlement in Killing of Pharrell Williams’ Cousin

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The city of Virginia Beach will pay a $3 million settlement to the family of Donovon Lynch, a Black man who was shot and killed by police last year. Lynch was the cousin of Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native.

The settlement between Virginia Beach and Lynch’s family, announced yesterday, comes after a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Wayne Lynch, Donovon’s father. Wayne filed the lawsuit in June 2021 against the city and police officer Solomon D. Simmons, several months after Lynch was fatally shot during a chaotic outbreak of gunfire on the city’s boardwalk.

Lynch, a 25-year-old former college football player, was at a nightclub with a friend when a shooting occurred outside, according to Billboard. After the pair left the nightclub, they encountered Simmons. According to the lawsuit, “Immediately, unlawfully and without warning, officer Simmons fired his police-issued firearm at Mr. Lynch, shooting him twice and killing him.”

Although a special grand jury found Simmons’ action to be justified last November, a joint statement released by the city of Virginia Beach in conjunction with Lynch’s family acknowledges wrongdoing on the part of the city in its handling of the situation.

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“As we have learned more over time about the facts of that fateful night and encounter, we have come to understand that a series of unfortunate occurrences led to Donovon’s death that night – which in hindsight should never have occurred as it was later determined that neither Donovon nor the officer set in motion the events that transpired,” the statement notes.

“We understand that the settlement will in no way lessen the grief and loss for the Lynch family. The City’s ongoing support for its public safety personnel and its investment in officer education and technological advancements underscores the City’s commitment to providing greater transparency.”

The settlement comes shortly after Williams announced that his music festival, Something in the Water, would return to Virginia Beach. The musician pulled out of the city last year, citing his hometown’s “toxic energy.”

Something in the Water debuted in 2019 and was called off in 2020 and 2021 for Covid-related reasons, but in an open letter Pharrell said his decision to not bring it back to Virginia Beach was related to the city’s handling of Lynch’s death.

“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by and with toxic energy,” Williams said. “The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2.” (Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center was the site of a mass shooting that left 12 dead in 2019.)

The next iteration of Something in the Water will take place April 28-30, 2023. “I need to come back home,” Williams said in a statement when the dates were announced. “There is a pervasive feeling by almost everyone that the festival belongs in Virginia Beach, and the time is right to bring it back.”


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