THEIR VIEW: Over 600 days since police killed unarmed man, and still no answers

Published on Sunday, 11 August 2019 21:06
Written by The Washington Post

Six hundred and twenty-nine days. That’s how long it’s been since two U.S. Park Police officers opened fire on an unarmed 25-year-old accountant named Bijan Ghaisar, hitting him repeatedly in the head and killing him, after he was involved in a fender bender on the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Washington. Six hundred and twenty-nine days, and still not a word from the federal authorities who are supposedly investigating, not even an explanation of why it is taking them so long. The lack of accountability is stunning.

For nearly that entire time, since November 2017, the FBI has been - so we are told - conducting an investigation. For nearly that entire time, officials at the Park Police, the FBI and the Justice Department have treated requests for information - from Congress, from the Ghaisar family and from the media - with contempt.

For 629 days, a span almost as long as Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, there has been no resolution in the unwarranted death of a man who posed no apparent threat. No threat to himself. No threat to the public. And no threat to the Park Police officers who took his life.

The officers themselves, Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya- whose names were divulged not by the authorities but, more than a year after the incident, during the course of a civil suit brought against them by Ghaisar’s parents - now say they acted in self-defense. That attempt at justification flies in the face of unusually clear dash-cam video recorded by a Fairfax County, Virginia, police cruiser that trailed the Park Police patrol car. The officers contend that Ghaisar’s death resulted from his own “intentional, illegal and otherwise wrongful conduct.” By that, they apparently mean Ghaisar’s decision to inch his car slowly away from the officers as they approached him with guns drawn in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County.

Ghaisar’s actions were ill-considered. In the minutes before his execution, he twice drove away from the officers when they attempted to pull him over. He should not have done so. He should have waited patiently. But his mistakes do not constitute a capital crime.

Members of Congress have demanded information from the FBI and the Park Police. They’ve asked about use-of-force and pursuit policies; why the officers’ names were withheld for more than a year; and how many agents and man-hours have been devoted to the case. The answers they have received would be charitably described as scant. “This is not how our American justice system ought to work,” Warner said recently.

Official silence and stonewalling are tantamount to a denial of justice, all the more alarming in a case in which a man’s life has been taken. The Ghaisar family and the public deserve better. Six hundred and twenty-nine days are enough.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Sunday, 11 August 2019 21:06. Updated: Sunday, 11 August 2019 21:09.