Prosecutors plan to appeal dismissal of cases against park police officers in deadly Bijan Ghaisar shooting

Fairfax County Police Department footage showing park police shooting McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar (via FCPD)

A federal judge in Alexandria accepted legal arguments from two U.S. Parks Police officers after chasing a 25-year-old motorist in 2017 and shooting him in his jeep.

On Friday, October 22, Judge Claude Hilton dismissed the criminal charges against the police, writing in the opinion that McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar was driving erratically after another vehicle struck his Jeep on George Washington Memorial Parkway, leading the police to a chase.

Hilton wrote in his decisions for officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard that they “were authorized by federal law to act as they did” and “the officers did not do more than was necessary and appropriate “.

The officers sought immunity under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, which gives federal laws and powers precedence over those of a state.

Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano and Attorney General Mark Herring said in a joint statement that the state plans to appeal the case to the U.S. 4th Court of Appeals in Richmond.

“[We] I do not believe that the law allows an individual to circumvent the responsibility of the criminal justice system simply because of the identity of his employer ”, joint statement says. “We believe that a jury should be given the opportunity to hear all the evidence and determine whether these men committed a crime when they shot Bijan Ghaisar.”

According to Hilton’s decision, a dispatcher first told police that Ghaisar’s vehicle struck another vehicle, but then corrected that information, saying the Jeep was hit. The accident involving a Toyota Corolla happened in Alexandria, just north of Slater’s Lane, on November 17, 2017.

The court wrote that Ghaisar ignored officers’ orders to stop and pull over, did not stop at a stop sign, and walked away several times as Amaya’s hand was placed on Ghasiar’s doorknob.

When Amaya approached the vehicle on foot around Tulane Drive and ordered it to open the door, Ghaisar left with Amaya’s hand on the door, the court wrote.

Police then arrested him in a residential area of ​​the promenade and shouted orders at Ghaisar on foot, but Ghaisar drove away, the court said.

When officers stopped him at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue, they exited the patrol car. Amaya shouted orders at Ghaisar as his Jeep rushed towards Amaya, prompting him to shoot through the Jeep’s windshield.

“The Jeep stopped first, then moved forward again, prompting the two officers to shoot Ghaisar,” the court wrote. “The Jeep then rolled over into a ditch.”

Ghaisar put the police in a life and death situation, the judge found.

“The officers’ decision to unload their firearms was necessary and appropriate in the circumstances and there is no evidence that the officers acted with malice, criminal intent or any other improper motivation,” the judge wrote.

It was not immediately clear how a postponed The federal wrongful death lawsuit brought by Ghaisar’s father against the United States will continue.

Ghaisar’s family, the McLean community and elected officials criticized the park police and the FBI for their handling of the shooting investigation, including the prolonged detention the identity of the agents involved.

Federal prosecutors in the US Department of Justice finally announced in November 2019 that they would not pursue charges against Amaya and Vinyard.

Descano convened a grand jury last year and the officers were indicted in October 2020, with both a charge of manslaughter and one of reckless discharge of a firearm.

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