Ghaisar family to mark 500 days since shooting with protest at DOJ

Video screenshot
A screenshot of the video showing Park Police officers shooting Bijan Ghaisar at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue.

Friends and family of Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot multiple times by two U.S. Park Police officers on Fort Hunt Road in 2017, will gather outside the Justice Department on Monday morning for a protest.

The protest will mark 500 days since the McLean resident was shot at the intersection of Alexandria Avenue and Fort Hunt Road. The FBI has still not announced its findings in the shooting of Ghaisar, who was unarmed according to the Fairfax County Police and his family.

The protest also comes days after the names of the two officers who shot Ghaisar were publicly released as part of the Ghaisar family’s civil litigation against the federal government. Neither the the Park Police nor the FBI, who took over the investigation shortly after the shooting, had previously released the men’s names or any additional information on the case.

“Tomorrow morning’s protest marks 500 days since Bijan was shot by U.S. Park Police in November 2017,” Ghaisar’s family said in a press release. “The FBI and DoJ have remained steadfastly silent during that time, despite repeated calls from the media, several members of Congress, and Bijan’s family for justice.”

Ghaisar photo
Bijan Ghaisar

Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, the officers named in the family’s lawsuit, appeared to fire nine rounds at Ghaisar as his car slowly rolled around the officers’ vehicle, stopped, and then lurched into a ditch next to the road. Ghaisar’s family blasted the “rogue officers” in a statement released last week, vowing to continue to press for more answers in the death of their son.

“Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard were the two out-of-control officers who aggressively pursued Bijan that night in November 2017 until they cornered him and shot at him nine times — execution style — as he sat unarmed in his Jeep,” the family said last week. “Since that night, the DOJ and USPP repeatedly denied our attempts to find out who they were until we convinced a court to order them to provide this information to us.”

Ghaisar was shot November 27, 2017 after leading the Park Police officers and a Fairfax County Police officer on a chase down George Washington Parkway and through a residential area leading up to Fort Hunt Road. Ghaisar had allegedly been involved in a fender-bender accident in the city of Alexandria and drove away from the scene without exchanging information with the other driver.

Beyond the Park Police’s initial comments on the shooting and chase, little was known about the incident until January 2018, when the Fairfax County Police released in-car video of the chase taken from one of their cruisers. While the FCPD participated in the pursuit, none of their officers fired any shots. The Park Police officers’ SUV did not have a camera, and their officers do not wear body cameras.

The FCPD’s video showed Park Police officers pursuing Ghaisar after spotting going south on the Parkway just over the Fairfax County border. Ghaisar did not immediately pull over and continued south on the Parkway. He then stopped, but drove off after the officers approached his Jeep Grand Cherokee with their guns drawn and attempted to open the driver’s side door.

Ghaiar stopped a second time after turning right at West Boulevard Drive, but again drove off after officers approached the driver’s side door with their sidearms drawn. Ghaisar continued down Alexandria Avenue and stopped at Fort Hunt Road, where the Park Police SUV pulled in front of him again. As Ghaisar slowly started to pull around the officers’ SUV again, the two officers fired nine shots in 25 seconds.

Ghaisar was taken to a local hospital, where he remained unconscious until he died on November 27.

As the FBI’s investigation has dragged on, multiple politicians have demanded answers about the case to no avail. FBI Director Christopher Wray declined a meeting request from Rep. Don Beyer (D-8), whose district includes the area where Ghaisar was shot. Beyer said in February that he is now looking into a possible Congressional hearing on the case.

More recently, Ghaisar’s case has caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley asked the FBI if the case was still being investigated, and for a copy of the investigation if it was completed. The FBI declined to provide Grassley any information, and noted that the length of the now 16-month investigation was normal.

“The FBI is committed to ensuring thoroughness and completeness in this and all investigations it conducts,” wrote Jill C. Tyson, the FBI’s Assistant Director in the Office of Congressional Affairs. “This investigation is proceeding consistent with other investigations of a similar nature, general size, and complexity.”

State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), who lives near the spot Ghaisar was killed, has also been a vocal critic of the FBI’s handing of the case. Like Beyer, Surovell has attended vigils for Ghaisar and maintained a sign — twice stolen — posted at the spot of the slaying.

Surovell took issue with the FBI’s contention that Ghaisar’s case was similar to other investigations, and wrote a letter to the agency saying there’s no reason basic information like 911 calls and the police’s reasoning for the shooting haven’t been made public.

“I once again implore the Bureau to reconsider its position in light of the unusual circumstances of this case,” Surovell wrote. “This shooting happened two blocks from my home. Dozens of my constituents have told me the shooting and the 18 months of silence has significantly undermined their faith in the United States Park Police.

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