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Father of Pharrell Williams' slain cousin files suit after Virginia Beach police shooting

Donovon Lynch, 25, was killed in March following a chaotic night of shootings at the oceanfront in Virginia Beach.
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The father of Donovon Lynch, the slain cousin of Grammy-winning producer and musician Pharrell Williams, has filed a federal lawsuit, saying that his son was innocent and posed no threat when he was fatally shot by a Virginia Beach police officer.

Lynch, 25, was killed in March following a chaotic night of shootings at the oceanfront. At the time of his death, police were investigating three shootings in the area.

Lynch's father said in a lawsuit filed Monday that his son was not involved in the violence but was "unlawfully" shot twice and killed by Officer Solomon Simmons.

According to the suit, Lynch was at a restaurant with a friend when gunfire rang out around 11:20 p.m. ET March 26. Lynch and his friend decided to leave and were walking 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 says. "At all relevant times, Mr. Lynch was not speaking or acting in a manner that would suggest that he posed any threat, let alone a deadly threat, to Officer Simmons or anyone else."

Lynch was not a suspect in the incident Simmons was responding to, according to the suit, which alleges the officer failed to identify himself as law enforcement and did not take the time to learn Lynch's identity.

It further states that the "shooting was motivated at least in part by Mr. Lynch’s race as a Black man."

The lawsuit names Simmons and the City of Virginia Beach as defendants. Simmons could not be reached Tuesday at phone numbers listed for him. A city attorney said they were made aware of the filing on Monday but have not yet been served, so they could not comment on the lawsuit.

Virginia Beach police have not publicly identified the officer who shot and killed Lynch, and the department did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Police released a statement in March and said that the involved officer, as well as an officer who witnessed the incident, reported that Lynch was "brandishing a handgun at the time of the shooting."

"It was recovered at the scene," police said. "An independent witness affirmed that Mr. Lynch had been in possession of a handgun earlier on the evening of March 26, 2021."

The department also released a photo of the firearm it says belonged to Lynch that was recovered at the scene.

Police declined to comment on what led up to the shooting, saying that it is a part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the findings will be turned over to the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney, which is conducting a separate investigation into the shooting.

The officer who shot Lynch was placed on administrative assignment pending the outcome of the investigation, a standard procedure, police said.

The lawsuit does not mention if Lynch was in possession of a firearm that night. His family said at an April press conference that they wanted police to publicly retract the word brandishing from its account of what happened.

According to the family's attorney, Lynch owned a security business and had a license to carry a firearm. He was known to carry his gun in his pants pocket, the attorney said.

"We've made repeated requests to have some things removed from their statement that they fabricated, and it's not been done," Lynch's father, Wayne, said at the press conference.

The family is seeking damages and is calling for a federal investigation into the shooting.

Shortly after the incident, Williams posted about it on Instagram.

"Thank you God for my 48th lap around the Sun," he wrote. "This one is symbolic and a first because I had to speak at my cousin’s funeral, and was choked up with emotions. Too many unanswered City and State questions. Respectfully, I am calling for a Federal investigation. I also humbly ask that you all keep the family in prayer. His name is Donovon Wayne Lynch."

The post has been deleted.