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City ‘Has Been Run By and With Toxic Energy’: Pharrell Williams Pulls His Festival Out of Virginia Beach Following the Shooting Death of His Cousin at Hands of Police In March

Grammy-award winning musician Pharrell Williams continues to grapple with the loss of his cousin Donovon Lynch. The 25-year-old was shot and killed by police during a tragic night of shootings in the Oceanfront district of Virginia Beach, Virginia, on March 26. 

Since the incident, Lynch’s father, Wayne Lynch, has gone on to sue the officer responsible for firing the fatal shot and the city of Virginia Beach. Lynch is seeking a trial by jury and $50 million damages from Officer Solomon D. Simmons III. 

Pharrell Williams pulls his festival out of Virginia Beach following the shooting death of his cousin
(Photo: @pharrell/Instagram)

Deshayla Harris, 29, also lost her life that night, while eight others were injured. Officers that evening did not activate their body cameras. 

In a letter to City Manager Patrick Duhaney, the “Happy” musician addressed an letter he received on Sept. 29 expressing “immense disappointment” over the news that his Something In the Water music event would not be returning to the city after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-related restrictions, according to NBC affiliate WAVY, which first reported the news.

Williams also took the time out to blast the city over its handling of his cousin’s case and how he feels his and the city’s goals are no longer aligned. The 48-year-old highlighted his event’s intentions to “unify the region, bring about economic development opportunities and broaden the horizons of the local business community.”

He said that though those goals were met, the intensity of the reaction he received from city officials upon news of the festival’s withdrawal would’ve been better put in service as the response “following the loss of my relative’s life.”

The “Entrepreneur” artist went on to call out “toxic energy” that he claims has and continues to run the city. The same power Williams alleges “changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2.” (Williams referenced a 2019 mass shooting at a local municipal building that left 12 dead.)

Williams called on those in charge to “consider the citizens and the consumer base,” and reject the idea that “human rights of all as a controversial idea.”

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper he hopes to sort matters out with the superstar as he expressed desires to have the festival in the city.

“We’re hoping we can have a face-to-face meeting with Pharrell and go over his concerns and see what we can do to get things back on track,” Dyer explained. “By meeting in person and communicating, I am confident we can move in a better direction. That would be best to build those positive bridges.”

The 2019 Something In the Water was said by the city government to have an economic impact on the Hampton Roads area of roughly $24.11 million. 

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