Family files lawsuit in fatal shooting by US Park Police
Aug. 03, 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorneys for the family of a northern Virginia man shot to death by U.S. Park Police have filed a lawsuit that describes the incident as "egregious, senseless and unlawful" and spoke of "two out-of-control law enforcement officers."
Lawyers for Bijan Ghaisar's family filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday, said no one has told the family why park police pursued the 25-year-old accountant last November, nor why family members weren't allowed to see him in the hospital before he died. They also noted that no one has told the family why the two officers fired nine shots into the Jeep that Ghaisar was driving.
"This is because there is no reasonable explanation," the lawsuit said.
At a news conference to announce the lawsuit, Ghaisar's family fought back tears as they spoke of their pain and the frustration of having so little information about his death after more than 8 months. They remembered a kind, bright young man who loved sports and was following in the footsteps of his father. They emphasized that Bijan Ghaisar was against violence and guns.
After watching video of the shooting, sister Negeen Ghaisar said she knew officers didn't need to shoot her younger brother, her only sibling.
"If you believe in doing the best you can do, in having integrity, in being honorable and in serving the communities you are working to protect, you need to hold yourselves accountable when you do something wrong," she said. "The United States Park Police murdered my family as I knew it when they killed my brother and I need them to understand the gravity of that and we as a nation need to do better."
The lawsuit names the United States of America and John Does 1-10 as defendants, a reference to the park police officers. It seeks $25 million in compensation to the family.
FBI spokeswoman Kadia Koroma declined to comment Friday on the lawsuit, noting that the investigation is still ongoing. There is no timeline for when it might be complete, she said.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys said 250 days have passed since the shooting without any information being released. They say no one has explained why Ghaisar was under arrest.
"Everything about this case, from the chase, to the shooting, to the subsequent treatment of the family, has been cruel," the lawsuit said.
Ghaisar was involved in a crash on the George Washington Parkway on Nov. 17. The family's attorneys say he had been involved in a minor traffic accident with negligible property damage and no apparent injuries.
According to the lawsuit, Ghaisar drove away from the scene and was pursued by Park Police. Attorneys say he stopped on three occasions as he was followed, and each time, officers jumped from their cruiser, raced to his car and pointed their guns at his head.
On the third stop, the lawsuit said, Ghaisar came to a complete stop in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County. Officers blocked his path with their patrol car, jumped out and fired nine shots at close range as Ghaisar sat behind the wheel. The lawsuit cited a video, saying Ghaisar's Jeep appeared to roll forward slightly before he was shot four times in the left side of the head and once in his right wrist.
In January, Fairfax County Police, who played a backup role in the chase, released dashboard cam video of the incident. The four-minute nighttime video shows a chase beginning on the parkway a few miles south of the nation's capital, then turning into a residential neighborhood. It shows the car driven by Ghaisar stopping twice during the chase, and officers approaching the car with guns drawn. In both cases, Ghaisar drives off.
At the third and final stop, officers with guns drawn approach the car at the driver side door. When the car starts to move again, five gunshots are heard. The car starts to drift into a ditch, and two more sets of two gunshots are heard.
The attorneys said Ghaisar was in a coma until his death. They said park police officers told the family he was under arrest and prevented them from "touching and comforting him" and restricted the family from seeing him.
Ghaisar remained in a coma for 10 days after the shooting before he died.
The lawyers for the family filed in July a series of Freedom of Information Act requests on the Park Police and the FBI. Last February, two Democratic representatives said the U.S. Park Police chief refused to meet with them to talk about police procedures following the shooting.