Donovon Lynch family abandons efforts to alter $3 million wrongful death settlement with Virginia Beach
Hours into a court hearing in which Virginia Beach city attorneys sought to have a judge enforce a $3 million wrongful death settlement reached with the family of a man killed by a police officer in March 2021, the family withdrew its opposition and agreed to keep the settlement in place.
The move came during a hearing Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask in U.S. District Court in Norfolk — and more than five months after the settlement initially was reached. The amount is the largest the city has agreed to pay to settle a lawsuit, according to Deputy City Attorney Christopher Boynton.
Donovon Lynch, a 25-year-old cousin of musician Pharrell Williams and a former offensive lineman for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, was fatally shot March 26, 2021, by Virginia Beach police officer Solomon Simmons during a chaotic night at the Oceanfront. One other person was killed and eight were injured in separate shootings.
Lynch’s father, Wayne, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city and Simmons in 2021. While Lynch’s family and a friend who witnessed the shooting have said the officer had no reason to fire at him, the city has repeatedly claimed Donovon Lynch was “brandishing” a handgun at the time.
According to testimony Wednesday, lawyers for the city, Simmons and Lynch negotiated for nearly 12 hours Dec. 8 before agreeing to the $3 million payout. Virginia Beach City Council approved the deal during a closed-door session five days later and it was publicly announced afterward.
Weeks later, however, Wayne Lynch announced he’d parted ways with attorneys Justin Fairfax and Martin Thomas and that the settlement wasn’t finalized. Fairfax, a former Virginia lieutenant governor, and Thomas then filed motions asking to have the agreement enforced.
Fairfax was among the witnesses called to testify Wednesday. When Lynch’s new attorney, Joseph Sherman, began asking him questions suggesting he’d coerced Wayne Lynch to agree to the settlement, Krask stopped Sherman from proceeding. The judge called the move “sandbagging” because Sherman hadn’t raised the argument in court papers filed before the hearing. A recess was then called and Sherman and Lynch agreed afterward to accept the initial settlement.
“For the city and for officer Simons, as well as the Lynch family, we’re happy there is true closure,” Boynton said afterward. “I think everybody needs to move on from this event. It took a while to get here but we’re happy to be here finally.”
Boynton said Simmons continues to have the city’s full support and is still employed as an officer.
After the hearing, Wayne Lynch said part of the reason he began to buck the initial agreement was he became concerned Fairfax was not acting in his best interest. He also was offended by some things the city had continued to argue, especially claims that his son was brandishing a gun that night. Donovyn Lynch had a gun with him but his family has said it remained in his pocket.
Protecting his son’s legacy is one of his main concerns, Wayne Lynch said. He formed a foundation in which he seeks to carry on his son’s positive way of life and support young people like him.
“His legacy will continue to be positive,” Wayne Lynch said of his son. “That’s how Donovon was. He was always positive.”
Jane Harper, email@example.com