VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach Branch NAACP released a statement Sunday expressing concerns regarding the police department’s press briefing on the Oceanfront shootings.
Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate held a briefing Saturday night on the three incidents that left two people dead and eight injured at the resort city.
The woman killed, 28-year-old Deshayla E. Harris of Norfolk, is believed to have been an innocent bystander.
The man who was killed during an officer-involved “police intervention shooting” was 25-year-old Donovon W. Lynch of Virginia Beach.
During the briefing, Neudigate revealed that the officer involved did not have his body camera on for “unknown reasons.”
“After watching the press conference by Chief Paul Neudigate, we are not surprised of the revelation that the body camera of the officer involved in the death of Mr. Lynch was not activated,” said Dr. Karen Hills Pruden, branch president.
“Disciplinary actions surrounding an officer misconduct should not be withheld from the public under the pretext ‘It’s a personnel issue.’ This has been the case in the past. Transparency of police disciplinary [proceedings] is required now,” Pruden continued.
The NAACP says the community and the organization are now faced with “unanswered questions” on the lives lost.
Pruden says the concern mainly stems from the fact that the officer involved in the deadly shooting had his body camera turned off, and the department at this time does not know why.
“We have a citizen dead. And our only reliance now is on what the officer has to say. And so I’m concerned about that,” she said.
Additionally, the statement released says that the city began a Body-Worn Camera Project with “250 in-car dash cameras to be distributed to officers as a tool to gather evidence, provide information about police interactions, increase accountability, and strengthen the relationships with the community.”
The statement continues, “In this incident, the department has failed on all accounts. The $5.5M implementation investment on body-worn cameras is worthless when officers do not turn the camera on for recording. Mr. Lynch is not here to tell his side! The officer involved has no reason to be forthcoming about any facts that places him in an adverse light.”
Pruden says they want to hold the police department accountable for the gray area when the camera was not activated.
“My greatest fear is that they will continue to say that they handled it it was a personnel matter as to why he didn’t activate the camera. And we will not know why,” she said.
The Virginia Beach Branch NAACP says it continues to call for a Citizen Review Board with full investigative and subpoena powers.
The organization is seeking:
- The Use of Force Continuum with at least six steps with clear levels of escalation.
- The ability to review officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories (via Open Records Act).
- The ability to review the police department’s records of disciplining or charging officers with misconduct.
- A statewide review board for police officers who use deadly force-tied to officer recertification credentials.
In closing, Pruden wrote, “We are watching and listening for the department’s inquiry into this shooting and expect a thorough and expeditious report. The community is waiting!”