Virginia Beach, VA – The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that the officer-involved fatal shooting of Grammy-winning artist Pharrell Williams’ cousin in March was “justified.”
Prosecutors said the grand jury found no probable cause to bring criminal charges against Virginia Beach Police Officer Solomon Simmons.
The report said the grand jury found that Officer Simmons had acted in justifiable self-defense for himself and others when he shot Lynch.
When prosecutors announced the grand jury’s findings on Dec. 1, officials the panel had also recommended that Jeff Reichert, the attorney for the Lynch family attorney, should be investigated for perjury.
The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said the court had entered an order to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations, WTKR reported.
The officer-involved shooting occurred during a bizarre series of shootings that occurred in the tourist area along the Virginia Beach waterfront all on the same March night.
Two people were fatally shot and eight others were wounded in a total of three separate shootings within blocks of each other within a few minutes.
The series of events began at about 11:22 p.m. on March 26 when Virginia Beach police officers on patrol in the tourist area of the resort town heard gunfire, NPR reported.
A press release from the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) said officers arrived on the scene at Atlantic Avenue and 20th Street and found several people suffering from gunshot wounds.
The preliminary investigation showed that a group of people got into a fistfight and then several people pulled out firearms and a gunfight ensued.
Eight people were transported to area hospitals in conditions varying from “serious to life-threatening,” NPR reported.
While officers were dealing with that crime scene, they heard more gunfire nearby, according to VBPD.
Officers found a female gunshot victim in the 300-block of 19th Street near Pacific Avenue.
Virginia Beach police said the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
While officers were handling the dead woman’s crime scene, VBPD said an officer encountered an armed citizen which led to the “individual being confronted by a uniformed Virginia Beach police officer, resulting in a police intervention shooting,” WAVY reported.
Police said Lynch was fatally shot in the 300-block of 20th Street after he brandished a weapon at a Virginia Beach police officer.
Local activists immediately claimed that Lynch was unarmed when he was shot and launched protests, the New York Post reported.
But police said an independent witness had said that Lynch had a gun in his hand earlier in the evening and released a picture of the Ruger pistol recovered at the scene.
Lynch’s family called for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to take over the investigation but that didn’t happen.
Virginia State Police said the investigation into Lynch’s death was ongoing, WTKR reported.
Lynch’s father, Wayne Lynch, filed a $50 million wrongful death federal lawsuit against Officer Simmons and the city of Virginia Beach in June, WRC reported.
The lawsuit claimed that Officer Simmons shot Lynch and then failed to perform First Aid to try and save his life.
“Immediately, unlawfully and without warning, Officer Simmons fired his police-issued firearm at Mr. Lynch, shooting him twice and killing him,” the complaint read, according to WRC.
Prosecutors announced in September that a special grand jury had been called to consider the case.
Officer Simmons released a statement after the grand jury’s report was released, WTKR reported.
“I am gratified that the Special Grand Jury confirmed my actions on March 26, 2021 to be entirely justified and am pleased to have my name cleared of any wrongdoing,” the statement read. “The past eight months have been a trying time for me and my family, as I am sure it has been for the Lynch family. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that night.”
“As the Grand Jury’s report stated, I was placed in an incredibly chaotic situation, one that required me to make a difficult, split- second decision,” the officer’s statement continued. “My heart goes out to the Lynch family for their loss, and I will continue to pray for them as I have done every day since this happened.”
Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney said that Officer Simmons would remain on administrative assignment while an internal investigation was conducted to determine whether the officer followed Virginia Beach police policy and procedures when he shot Lynch, WTKR reported.
The Virginia Beach NAACP released a statement that said the organization was disappointed in the grand jury’s findings.