National Park Police in Virginia opened fire and killed a 25-year old driver after a minor collision. While the incident occurred on November 27, police dashboard video of the shooting was not released until January 25.
The victim, Bijan Ghaisar, was shot four times in the head and once in the wrist, although police shot a total of nine bullets at him and his vehicle. Ghaisar succumbed to his injuries 10 days after the shooting.
Rear-Ended by Another Driver
Ghaisar was traveling on the federal George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) in Fairfax County when his green Jeep suddenly stopped. Another driver – who received a citation for failing to maintain proper control from the police – rear-ended Ghaisar’s vehicle.
The video begins several minutes after the collision, and was recorded by the Fairfax County police, who were called in as backup by National Park Police. In it, the Jeep is pursued by the National Park Police, and they eventually pull alongside the Jeep.
An officer gets out of the police vehicle and points at gun at the Jeep’s passenger side door, while apparently trying to tug the door open.
However, Ghaisar then pulls away in the Jeep. At that point, the Fairfax County police car catches up, and joins the National Park Police in chasing Ghaisar. All vehicles leave the GWMP, but then stop. The video then shows two National Park Police officers nearing the Jeep’s driver’s side door, with one officer holding his gun. Ghaisar takes off in his Jeep again.
Residential streets were the scene of the chase that followed. When Ghaisar pauses at a stop sign, he is blocked by a National Park Police vehicle getting in front of him.
An officer approaches the Jeep’s driver’s side and a shot rings out, followed by three more shots. The Jeep moves forward slightly, and another officer from the National Park Police appears on the video. Another shot follows.
The Jeep lurches right, and another two shots are heard. A Fairfax County officer appears in the video while the Jeep moves into a ditch. Another two shots are heard.
An Unarmed Accountant was the Driver
Ghaisar, an accountant, was not armed at the time of the shooting. There is no indication in the video that he had a weapon of any type. It does not appear that any of the police officers involved were in danger of being hit by the Jeep at any point during the incident.
The National Park Police officers involved have been put on administrative leave.
The Washington Post reports that National Park Police policies regarding force and pursuit state officers may use deadly force when there is, “a reasonable belief, in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or to another person.”
However, the policy also states that “Officers shall not fire at a moving vehicle nor fire from a moving vehicle except when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”
A Buddhist Who Hated Guns
Naturally, Ghaisar’s family wants answers to why the police used deadly force.
Family and friends remember the slain man as someone who hated guns, advocated non-violence and peace, loved football and was politically liberal. He was as practicing Buddhist.
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Ghaisar worked for his dad’s accounting firm and lived in McLean, where he grew up. He was a first-generation American of Iranian descent.
After the deadly shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in 2012, Ghaisar posted on Facebook that it was upsetting to know it was legal to own a 100-round semiautomatic rifle. Ghaisar’s maternal grandfather was the chief of police in Shiraz, Iran, and he grew up respecting law enforcement.
Federal Police Officers Should Wear Body Cameras
In their grief, Ghaisar’s family is working to ensure justice. A statement from Ghaisar’s family posted on Facebook reads:
"If not for the Fairfax County Police Department dashboard camera, the world would not have seen the disturbing behavior by two U.S. Park Police officers that led to the horrific shooting of our son and brother, Bijan Ghaisar, on a Friday night last November. We are committed to ensuring justice is served in the senseless killing of Bijan, who was shot at 9 times, at close range, by these Park Police officers. We share Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton's view that uniformed federal law enforcement should be required to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in their vehicles and look forward to doing whatever is necessary to make sure that becomes the law of the land. "
As a Washington Post editorial puts it, “At last, there is video evidence that the death of Bijan C. Ghaisar, the unarmed man shot repeatedly by U.S. Park Police in November following a hit-and-run accident, was just as senseless and unjustifiable as published reports had suggested. The dashboard-camera video, released Wednesday, is a chilling display of police appearing to recklessly take a life because — well, why?” We all want to know the answer to that.
If you or a family member are victims of a wrongful police shooting or excessive force by police, you may be entitled to compensation and to learn what really happened.
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