Delegate Jay Jones and five other state legislators are calling on Virginia’s attorney general to used the powers that the General Assembly recently provided him with by conducting his own investigation into the shooting of Donovon Lynch.
Lynch was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer Friday night during a chaotic night of shootings at the Oceanfront that left two dead and many more wounded. Lynch was unarmed and the bodycam for the officer that shot him was not activated at the time of the shooting. Virginia State Police (VSP) are conducting their own investigation of the shooting, but Jones and other legislators want Herring to do his own, independent investigation.
“An investigation by the Virginia State Police is not enough,” Delegate Jeff Bourne said in a prepared statement Thursday.
In a statement earlier this week, Herring said he supports an independent investigation from the VSP. “I called for an independent investigation into the death of Donovon Lynch and I believe this is a step in the right direction,” Herring said Tuesday in a statement,
Joining Jones on a press call Thursday afternoon, Delegates Jeff Bourne and Paul Krizek stressed that they believe Herring should be more involved in the situation. “It can’t be a step in the right direction, it has to be more than that,” Krizek said.
Herring’s office has not responded to Virginia Scope, but they did tell the Richmond Times-Dispatch in a statement that the attorney general’s office does not have the legal power to investigate the shooting. Bourne, a former assistant attorney general said that the people working for Herring are smart enough to find a way to investigate it.
Jones also cited HB 5072, a bill that the General Assembly passed in 2020 to give the attorney general additional powers to open an investigation whenever any “law-enforcement officers of any agency of the Commonwealth or any locality are engaging in a pattern or practice that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the laws of the United States and the Commonwealth.” The bill also empowers the attorney general to issue a civil investigative demand if they hav reasonable cause to believe that an unlawful pattern and practice violation has occurred.
Jones is challenging Herring for the Democratic nomination to run for attorney general this year. He said that if he was attorney general, he would have had a team at the scene the morning following the shooting.
More delegates joined in on the call from Jones for an independent investigation in prepared statements. “The Office of the Attorney General has the opportunity to take the lead and investigate this directly,” said Del. Marcus Simon (D), the chair of the Privileges and Elections Committee. “We need bold leadership when it comes to police accountability to ensure that victims and communities get the answers they deserve and to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.”
Del. Lashrecse Aird, an early supporter of Jones, asked what is the point of the newly-established Office of Civil Rights within the attorney general’s office if it not going to be utilized for situations like this. “An Office of Civil Rights was created within the OAG to serve in moments like this,” Aird said Thursday. “If this Office fails to act as a mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability within police departments, then what is the point?”
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