No One to Face Charges in Shooting of Unarmed Motorist

No One to Face Charges in Shooting of Unarmed Motorist
Bijan Gaiser

On November 27, 2017, U.S. Park Police in Virginia opened fire and killed an unarmed 25-year old driver after a minor rear-end collision with an Uber driver. He drove off after the collision in Old Town Alexandria, and pursuit by Park Police ensued after the Uber driver called 911. Authorities have not released this 911 call. 

At no point during the incident does it appear that the police were in danger of being hit by the victim’s vehicle. The two officers shot at Bijan Ghaisar nine times, with four of the bullets entering his head and a fifth hitting him in the wrist. Ten days later, the accountant and practicing Buddhist succumbed to his wounds. He died in the same hospital in which he was born a quarter-century earlier. 

Two years later, a federal prosecutor announced that the two officers, Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, will not face any charges in Ghaisar’s death. While the U.S. Attorney for the District stated that they could not prove the officers “willfully violated” civil rights law. However, there is no reason given for the fact that the police shot at Ghaisar’s Jeep as he was driving away. 

Family and Officials Outraged 

The case attracted national attention, and Ghaisar’s family and many officials expressed outrage at the decision not to file charges. Among others, Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) both pushed for details about the investigation after Ghaisar’s death. Both senators said they will file a formal briefing within the next month to ascertain why it was determined not to pursue charges. 

Various demonstrations were held by family and friends outside the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Department of the Interior in the past two years. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia) said the DOJ’s decision was not justice. He adds that it “really makes you afraid” of what justice is like in America today. 

Ghaisar’s family released a statement calling the decision “a cowardly act,” by the DOJ. The Ghaisars allege that the DOJ is “afraid to hold law enforcement, especially federal law enforcement, accountable when it commits murder.” The family claims the two officers are escaping justice because they wear badges. 

Body Camera Legislation

Although a five-minute video of the incident is available, it did not come from Amaya’s or Vinyard’s body cameras. Instead, it belongs to a police officer from the Fairfax County Police Department. This officer had nothing to do with the shooting, but he trailed the two Park Police in his vehicle, and his in-car video recorded the shooting. Ghaisar’s killing has prompted legislation requiring federal officers to wear body cameras. 

Self-Defense Civil Lawsuit

While it does not appear the two officers will ever face criminal charges in Ghaisar’s death, the young man’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against the two. In this lawsuit, Amaya and Vinyard are claiming self-defense lead to their shooting of Ghaisar. 

Along with the civil lawsuit, Ghaisar’s family is hopeful that the Fairfax County prosecutor will take up the case since federal authorities declined to do so. The recently elected Attorney for the Commonwealth has not commented on whether such an investigation will occur. 

If you or a loved one suffered death or catastrophic injuries at the hands of the police, prison guards or jail staff, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.


Related topics: body camera footage (15) | police escaping justice (9) | police lawsuit (10)

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