Editorial: The Park Police and Bijan Ghaisar
by Larry Janezich
June 2, 2020
Yesterday, mounted US Park Police helped federal police and the National Guard push peaceful protestors from Lafayette Square so the president could have a photo op in front of St. John’s church. The action – which according to witnesses – involved flash grenades, pepper spray and rubber bullets came at the personal directive of Attorney General William Barr.
We have yet to see a major press outlet dive into the record of the Park Police in Washington DC. As many District residents will remember, on November 17, 2017, officers of the US Park Police killed Bijan Ghaisar. As citizens across the nation and around the world react to cases of police brutality, one of our own most egregious examples has been largely left out of the picture.
Details of the incident of Ghaisar’s death have been widely reported, as has the account of the stonewalling by US Park Police, the FBI, the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice. Readers will remember that Ghaisar was rear-ended by an Uber driver near Reagan National airport; he may have been stopped in a traffic lane. Ghaisar left the scene without providing his information, a misdemeanor charge. The Uber driver called 911 alerting US Park Police. The Park Police pulled Ghaisar over twice, and each time he drove off. At a third stop near Fort Hunt, Park Police approached the car and as Ghaisar began to slowly drive off, they opened fire. Police fired ten rounds, four of which hit Ghaisar, fatally wounding him. He died at the hospital ten days later.
The federal government has flouted efforts by members of Congress, the court, and the Ghaisar family to uncover the reasons for the use of lethal force in this instance.
After a two year investigation, then US Attorney for the District Jessie Liu announced the DOJ would not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the police officers involved in the killing. The Justice Department blocked FBI agents from testifying when then-Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney Raymond Morrogh planned to seek criminal charges and present the case to a grand jury last December. The new Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano is pursuing the case.
In March, an Alexandria federal magistrate presiding over a civil case against the park police and the two officers ordered the FBI to turn over the FBI’s files, and a discovery deadline of July 10 has been set. The COV-19 health crisis has prevented deposition, resulting in a further delay.
The officers remain on administrative duty and an internal affairs investigation of the case will begin only after a decision is made by Descano on filing criminal charges.
We’re at 884 days and counting.
Here’s a link to WP coverage, including the disturbing video of the incident: https://wapo.st/301kNKd