CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story did not include information about a gun found near the location where Lynch was shot in March 2021. This version has been updated.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A federal judge has approved a $3 million settlement between the estate of Donovon Lynch and the city of Virginia Beach after a city police officer shot and killed Lynch in March 2021 at the Oceanfront.
In December, the Virginia Beach City Council had approved a $3 million settlement between the city and Lynch’s family, but Lynch’s father Wayne and administrator of his estate never signed the agreement.
During Wednesday’s hearing in Federal Court, several witnesses for the city said they thought the terms approved Dec. 8 as part of a 12-hour mediation session were a done deal.
Officer Solomon Simmons shot Lynch in a chaotic night at the Oceanfront, thinking he was armed, and a loaded gun was found nearby, registered to Lynch. A grand jury investigation found the shooting was justified and Simmons was placed back on duty with the department.
Although the settlement closes all claims against the city and Simmons, Lynch wanted to make sure that he still had the right to seek justice through the Department of Justice in Washington.
Simmons left the courthouse Wednesday afternoon without comment.
“Due to the fact of the grand jury did not find him liable for my son’s death, we think it needs to be investigated a little further so we can come to that conclusion, we think that’s exactly what happened,” Lynch said.
“This was an unfortunate incident,” said Deputy City Attorney Chris Boynton following the hearing. “Officer Simmons’ actions were absolutely defensible and explainable, at the same time, it was unfortunate the circumstances Mr. Lynch found himself in.”
The family had announced earlier that all of the money is expected to go to the Donovon Lynch Foundation. However the federal court will determine how the money is disbursed, including the payment of attorneys’ fees. The family has worked with at least six attorneys during the case, including former Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and court documents show that legal fees had already eclipsed $1 million by last December.
“It was never about the money for the Lynch family,” said their attorney, Joe Sherman. “It’s important for the Lynch family that they have the opportunity to participate and advocate for reform, and further investigation into the incident that night.”
Fairfax and Wayne Lynch, the father of Donovon Lynch, had stood arm-in-arm in front of the federal courthouse in Norfolk at that time, but a month later, a judge had ordered attorneys for the city and Wayne Lynch back to the bargaining table to work out the terms of the settlement, again.
Both sides had signed a memorandum of understanding, but in late December, it was reported that Wayne Lynch had effectively backed out of the deal, citing issues with the language in the final agreement that had not been in the memorandum of understanding.
The issues had centered around Wayne Lynch’s ability to take part in future legal actions involving the officer or department, along with the officer returning to regular duty.
Following the settlement, Wayne Lynch said his son’s legacy will endure, saying “it will continue in a positive light. that’s how Donovan was, he was always positive he was always inspirational, he was always outgoing.”