Police gunfire raises questions about black gun rights
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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – Black community leaders in Virginia Beach on Wednesday called for a federal investigation into the fatal murder of a black man by police, saying his right to carry a gun for protection had been ignored on a night of violence earlier. this year on the city’s waterfront.
“The Second Amendment doesn’t work when it comes to African Americans,” Carl Wright, activist and former NAACP local president, told a press conference. “He was a legal gun carrier. And yet his life was taken. There is no justice.
This concern was among several raised a day after a special grand jury found out that a police officer, who is also black, was justified in shooting Donovon Lynch fatally. Lynch’s family and community leaders also took issue with what they said were code words by authorities who described Lynch as a dangerous black man.
“He was a wonderful young man,” said his father Wayne Lynch, who filed a $ 50 million wrongful death claim. “He did everything he was supposed to do. He didn’t break any laws.”
Lynch, 25, had played soccer and graduated from the College of the University of Virginia at Wise. His father said he carried a gun because he had a security company.
Lynch and a friend had visited the town promenade on a warm March night that drew crowds of people. The evening turned into chaos after separate shootings. At least eight people were injured and a woman, believed to be a passerby, was killed.
City prosecutors said Tuesday that Officer Solomon D. Simmons encountered Lynch along a row of bushes next to a parking lot. A shootout had just occurred there in which 50 shells were fired.
Simmons told investigators he saw Lynch with a gun while crouching in the bushes. Simmons said he heard the distinct sound of a gun being fired to place a bullet in the chamber. He said he saw Lynch start to stand up and thought he was going to shoot in a parking lot full of people and police.
Simmons said he said something to Lynch – although he couldn’t remember what – and Lynch started to turn around before Simmons shot. A nearby police detective said he also saw Lynch and was preparing to shoot his gun before Simmons fired his gun.
Simmons never explicitly said Lynch pointed the gun directly at him, prosecutors said. But Commonwealth lawyer Colin Stolle told reporters on Tuesday it was “not just whether the gun was pointed at Officer Simmons.” It was also: are the people in the parking lot in danger?
Lynch’s death has come under intense scrutiny as he is a cousin of Grammy-winning musician Pharrell Williams. Many who spoke at Wednesday’s press conference wondered if Lynch had broken any laws.
Among them was Virginia Beach city councilor Aaron Rouse, who pointed out that he was also a tall black like Lynch – and a concealed weapon licensee.
“That night, with all these gunshots – and I’m hiding behind the bush – I’m going to pull out my gun to protect myself as well,” Rouse said.
Karen Hills Pruden, NAACP Local President, added: “When you hear gunshots and you are a legal gun carrier – and there is nowhere to go. security – what are you doing, Virginia gun carriers? You take out your gun.
Gary McCollum, a local minister and activist who moderated the press conference, added: “Please know the family and all of us here – we are not against the police. We love our cops in Virginia Beach. We feel safe because they are there.
But he also called for more transparency and accountability on the part of the department in the wake of the Lynch shooting.
In a brief interview Wednesday, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said he trusted the process for investigating Lynch’s death. It was conducted by the Virginia State Police and then handed over to members of a special grand jury in that city.
Neudigate said the department would conduct its own administrative review of the incident and see “if there are any lessons we can learn from a training perspective going forward.”
“Recently we just completed a refresher course on fair and impartial policing,” said the chief. “So we have a lot in mind to make sure that everything we do is fair and equitable. “
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