In 2019, the Justice Department announced it would not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the two US Park Police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar during a traffic stop. on November 17, 2017. Following a thorough independent investigation, the Department determined in 2019 that there was insufficient evidence to establish a willful violation of applicable federal criminal civil rights law. . Yesterday, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division informed Ghaisar’s family attorney that the department would not be reopening the federal investigation at this time.
To prevail under federal civil rights law, the Justice Department must prove that an officer, acting under the guise of law, deliberately used unreasonable force. To establish intent, federal authorities must demonstrate that the officer acted with the specific, deliberate intent to do something that the law prohibits. This is one of the highest standards of intent required by law. Error, misperception, negligence, or poor judgment are not enough to establish a federal criminal violation of civil rights. Federal authorities determined that this legal standard could not be met and closed the investigation in 2019.
After the federal investigation closed, the Commonwealth of Virginia filed criminal charges against the two officers involved in Ghaisar’s tragic death, charging them with manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm. The prosecution was later transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. On October 22, 2021, after reviewing evidentiary motions and briefs filed by the defendants and the Commonwealth, the U.S. District Court dismissed the Commonwealth’s criminal charges after finding that the subject officers’ conduct was “necessary and proper” and “in accordance with federal law. right.”
Based on the totality of the evidence reviewed, including evidence gathered during the previous federal investigation, evidence before the district court, and the district court’s findings and dismissal, the department has no no sufficient basis to reopen its previous investigation. The Department of Justice remains committed to investigating allegations of the use of unreasonable force by law enforcement officials and will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to ensure that all allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly investigated. .