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Judge: Donovon Lynch family's federal lawsuit against Virginia Beach can move forward

Author: Savannah Haugdahl (WVEC), Eugene Daniel (WVEC)

Published: 11:20 AM EST March 9, 2022

Updated: 8:34 PM EST March 9, 2022

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A federal lawsuit against the City of Virginia Beach and the police officer who shot and killed Donovon Lynch will move forward after a judge's ruling this week.

Lynch, 25, was shot and killed by Virginia Beach police officer Solomon Simmons during a chaotic night at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in March of 2021. The officer's body camera was not turned on during the shooting.

Wayne Lynch, Donovon's father, filed a $50 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against Simmons and the City of Virginia Beach on behalf of his son's estate.

Attorneys representing the city filed to dismiss the case. However, on Monday, a judge in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia allowed most of the family's claims to go forward.

A representative for the Lynch family said they are "very, very pleased" with the court's ruling.

The claims allege Simmons and the city violated Lynch's constitutional rights with excessive use of force and that Virginia Beach had failed to properly train its police officers, and that this failure to train partially caused the shooting that killed Donovon Lynch.

Judge Arenda Wright Allen said the family has reasons for their case to be heard.

“There are a number of claims that are in this case and the court has ruled based on the governing case law and the facts that are pled in this complaint, that it is sufficient to move forward," said 13News Now legal analyst Ed Booth.

The court did dismiss some complaints against Officer Simmons in his official capacity (i.e., his role as a police officer) that were exact copies of complaints brought against the city.

So while the complaints against the city will stand, Simmons won't be evaluated for them separately as a police officer.

Some personal claims against Simmons will be allowed to go forward.

Tiffany Russell, a spokesperson for the City of Virginia Beach, provided the following statement:

"The court has ruled that the allegations in the complaint, if proven at trial, are sufficient to support a claim against the City," said Russell. "Although we do not agree, the City acknowledges the court’s ruling and will move forward accordingly with defending the City's position at trial."

In November, a special grand jury found that Simmons was acting in "self-defense of himself and others." They declared the shooting justified and found no probable cause to charge him with a crime.

Lynch's family then started pushing for a federal investigation of the shooting.

They filed a suit in June 2021, which the city responded to with a "motion to dismiss," meaning they asked the judge to drop the case. The Lynch family came back to the court with an amended complaint, addressing some of the city's points, and the city, again, filed for the court to dismiss that amended complaint.

“I don’t think you can necessarily read from this what is ultimately going to happen in the case because the case hasn’t been completely developed at this point," said Booth.

Booth expects the case will next move into a discovery phase but said the case is likely still in the early stages.

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