Virginia Beach Chief Provides Answers, Raises Questions About Shooting

Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate answered questions about the recent shootings at a special city council meeting Tuesday.

By Brian Carlton

March 31, 2021

Donovon Lynch case officially turned over to Virginia State Police

VIRGINIA BEACH- It took 48 hours for Virginia Beach homicide detectives to interview the officer involved in the Donovon Lynch shooting. That wasn’t by choice, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said. Instead, department officials spent that time negotiating with the officer’s attorney, trying to get access.  

“It truly comes down to the fifth amendment,” Neudigate said Tuesday. “Police officers, they don’t lose their fifth amendment protections because they don a uniform and we have to respect that.” 

Neudigate spent most of Tuesday’s special Virginia Beach city council session answering questions about the Donovon Lynch shooting and the multiple other incidents March 26 that saw the city gain national attention.  

But more often than not, the questions circled back to the Lynch shooting. An officer shot and killed the 25-year-old Lynch, a former UVA-Wise offensive lineman, March 26. The department has since said Lynch was “brandishing a handgun” when he was killed. However, we still don’t know what led up to the incident. Police officials are also still trying to put it together, Neudigate said. 

“It’s hard to be transparent when you have very little information,” he told the council. “This is the first time I’ve encountered a situation where we’ve had no body worn camera footage, we’ve had no independent footage.” 

The officer involved is a five-year veteran of the department, a member of the Special Operations team. That’s all Neudigate will share about the man. And while he wouldn’t go into detail about the case itself, he did fill in the blanks about why several things happened. 

A Problem With The Body Camera

One of the top questions, both from city council and those interested in the case, involves body cameras. Specifically, why didn’t the officer turn his on before the situation with Lynch escalated? We previously covered when an officer is supposed to have the camera on. As council members asked the same question Tuesday, Neudigate said he didn’t have an answer. They haven’t investigated that part of the case yet, he told council members. It would be part of an administrative investigation, after the criminal case wraps up. 

But even if the officer didn’t turn on the camera, it should have automatically done so. When the city bought the cameras, the department was supposed to purchase special holsters. When a gun comes out of the holster, it sends a signal and every body camera within 30 feet will activate. This video from the city’s YouTube channel shows officers learning how to use the equipment. 

But there was just one problem. The manufacturer, Safariland, couldn’t accommodate an order of more than 800 holsters. Due to demand, it was backordered. And so, the department went with a different brand.

“Unfortunately, when we try to attach [the body cam] to the holster, the screws are not long enough,” Neudigate told the council. “Right now, we don’t have the screws to securely attach it to our holster.” That means no automatic activation. 

Virginia Beach Asks For Help 

Beyond that, Neudigate announced he reversed course. He reached out to the Virginia State Police and asked that they take over the case. 

“The last conversation I had is that we would be truly handing this off now and they would be handling the investigation,” Neudigate said of VSP. 

Since city residents appear to have lost confidence in their police force, Neudigate said, an independent group appears like the best way to fix that. However, he’s still concerned about turning things over. It’s not that he doesn’t trust the VSP, but Neudigate looks at the agency’s workload. He told the council he’s afraid of the Virginia Beach case getting lost in the shuffle.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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