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

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The city of Virginia Beach will pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit from the family of a Black man who was shot by police during a chaotic night of violence on the city’s oceanfront last year. The city and the family of Donovon Lynch — a cousin of musician and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams — announced the agreement late Tuesday (Dec. 13).

Wayne Lynch, Dononvon’s father, filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit in June 2021 against the city and police officer Solomon D. Simmons, who is also Black.

Lynch’s shooting occurred on a warm March night near the city’s crowded boardwalk, which is lined with restaurants and hotels. The evening dissolved into chaos after separate outbreaks of gunfire. At least eight people were wounded and one woman, who was believed to be a bystander, was killed.

Lynch, 25, a former college football player, was at a nightclub with his friend when a shooting occurred outside, the lawsuit stated. The men left and walked toward their cars when they encountered Simmons. “Immediately, unlawfully and without warning, officer Simmons fired his police-issued firearm at Mr. Lynch, shooting him twice and killing him,” the lawsuit states.

In November 2021, a special grand jury found that Simmons was justified. Authorities said Lynch had a gun and racked a round into the chamber before pointing his weapon toward a parking lot filled with people and police. Tuesday’s joint statement said more has been learned “about the facts of that fateful night and encounter.”

“(W)e 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 said.

The statement didn’t elaborate.

The settlement comes more than a month after Williams announced that his music festival, Something in the Water, would return to Virginia Beach. When the festival pulled out of Virginia Beach in 2021, the Grammy-winning musician had said “toxic energy” had run the city for too long and that he wished it had taken a more proactive stance after police shot Lynch. Last month, Williams said demand for the festival in Virginia Beach has “never wavered. If anything it has only intensified.”

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