Acting Park Police chief addresses Ghaisar shooting at meeting

Acting U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan made his first public comments on the Bijan Ghaisar case at a community meeting Tuesday evening at Walt Whitman Middle School, answering a question submitted by the parents of Ghaisar.

The Ghaisars, in attendance and wearing buttons with their son’s image on it, asked Monahan how the Park Police would prevent incidents such as the shooting of their son from happening the future.

Addressing an audience that had gathered to hear the latest information about the National Park Service’s ongoing safety study of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Monahan emphasized that the case was not yet over, and indicated that at some point an administrative investigation into the shooting would take place.

“It’s important to note that there are additional aspects to this investigation that still need to be addressed,” Monahan said. “There’s the potential for criminal prosecution at the county level or the state level, and there’s also — and will happen — an administrative investigation. Given that there is no determination on the criminal aspect of this incident, I have to respect the process, and I can’t comment any further at this time.”

Bijan Ghaisar, 25, died 10 days after being shot by Park Police officers after a police chase that ended at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue, just a few miles from where Tuesday’s meeting was held. The Justice Department announced last month that it would not be charging the two officers who shot Ghaisar, an accountant from McLean who had been involved in a minor fender-bender prior to the chase.

After Monahan’s remarks, an audience member asked for a moment of silence, which was agreed to.

Monahan’s full statement:

“During any active investigation, we are limited in what we can share. With this particular incident, the U.S Park Police turned over the investigation to the FBI, and that was to ensure a fair, impartial and unbiased investigation. The FBI investigated the incident, and when they concluded their investigation, they turned over their findings to the Department of Justice, and – as we know – on Nov. 14, the Dept. of Justice announced they would not proceed with a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.

It’s important to note that there are additional aspects to this investigation that still need to be addressed. There’s the potential for criminal prosecution at the county level or the state level, and there’s also – and it will happen – an administrative investigation. Given that there is no determination on the criminal aspect of this incident, I have to respect the process, and I can’t comment any further at this time.”

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Park Police would not begin any internal investigation into the the shooting until Fairfax County made a decision about whether it would open its own investigation. The officers, Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, remain on administrative leave.

So far Fairfax County has not announced a decision on pursuing charges. Current Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh’s term ends this month, and he will be replaced by newly elected Steve Descano in January. Through a spokesman, Descano declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

Person in yellow jacket wearing a We Are Bijan pin with his picture on it
A supporter of the Ghaisar family wears a pin with his image on it at Tuesday’s meeting

Ghaisar’s shooting was captured by the in-car cameras on a Fairfax County Police cruiser that participated in the chase. Park Police vehicles do not have cameras, and their officers do not wear body cameras either. No FCPD officers used their weapons during the chase.

Ghaisar stopped his Jeep Grand Cherokee three times during the chase: On the Parkway after the first part of the pursuit, a second time at the exit for West Boulevard Drive, and the third and final time at the intersection of Alexandria Avenue and Fort Hunt Road. When Ghaisar began to slowly drive around the officers’ SUV again, they fired a total of 10 shots at him.

Ghaisar died from his wounds 10 days later.

It is unclear why Ghaisar continued driving from officers during the chase, nor why he was stopped on the GW Parkway during the initial fender-bender. The Park Police officers in the case have not commented publicly, and the Justice Department has not released any additional information about the investigation outside of what was contained in the press release.

Arlington County on Monday released 911 tapes from the initial vehicle crash, which happened north of Old Town. WTOP reported that the 911 call, made by a passenger in the Uber that struck Ghaisar’s SUV, was only released in part because the call was eventually transferred to the Park Police, who have not released their recording of the call.

“I’m calling to report a hit-and-run that I was just in and the driver took off … I’m in an Uber right now, and we’re on the highway … GW Parkway,” the passenger said on the 911 call, according to WTOP. “The car was literally stopped in the middle of GW Parkway.”

Erika Christ contributed to this story.

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