Virginia Beach City Council votes against a permanent memorial to DeShayla Harris
- Written by Paul Bibeau
- Category: Local News
- Published: 16 March 2022
Virginia Beach City Council rejected a proposal to build a permanent memorial to a victim of gun violence at the Oceanfront.
Deshayla Harris, 28, of Norfolk, was killed on 19th Street during a cluster of shootings on March 26 last year. Virginia Beach police are still investigating the killing.
Council members Sabrina Wooten and Aaron Rouse voted in favor of the memorial, which Wooten requested.
The night DeShayla died, one other person was killed and at least eight others were wounded.
“I am with memorializing everyone that's been hurt down in Virginia Beach,” Elisheba Harris said. “But DeShayla - she's my special one. And she was an innocent bystander, and she wasn't bothering anybody, just like the other victims.”
Donovon Lynch, the other fatality, was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer.
The officer who shot him did not have his body camera on at the time of the shooting, which led to public outcry and the Lynch family filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
A special grand jury declined to issue indictments in the Lynch shooting.
Lynch’s cousin, musician Pharrell Williams, also pulled his popular Something In The Water Festival from Virginia Beach over the city’s handling of the case.
A temporary memorial was erected by mourners at the site of Harris’ death and near the site of Lynch’s death.
“Some people visit that temporary site, and they really don't know what happened,” Wooten said. She called a plaque a small but tangible way of marking the events that took Harris’ life.
Former Virginia Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks wrote to the council calling Wooten’s proposal “problematic.” Media reports said he complained that the memorial would single her out to be remembered instead of other victims of violence.
Mayor Bobby Dyer said he couldn’t support the proposal, calling the decision emotional and difficult.
He added that he spoke with other mayors in the area about efforts to address youth violence with a task force named after Harris.