The fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police officers was captured by the in-car video camera of a Fairfax County officer who had joined a pursuit of Ghaisar’s Jeep on Nov. 17, and Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said Monday that he wants that video made public as soon as the FBI is done interviewing officers in the case.
The FBI took over the investigation from the Park Police three days after Ghaisar’s shooting.
But Ghaisar’s family doesn’t want to wait any longer to see the video, in which two Park Police officers walked over to Ghaisar’s Jeep in the Fort Hunt area and at least one of them opened fire for reasons still unknown. The family said Monday that it wants to see the video now, though not necessarily release it to the public.
“No parent should have to wait this long to find out what happened to their child,” Thomas G. Connolly and Roy L. Austin Jr., attorneys for the family, said in a statement. “Bijan’s father, mother and sister appreciate that the FBI, Civil Rights Division and D.C. U.S. attorney’s Office have an investigation to complete and they expect that investigation to be comprehensive. There is nothing that the release of relevant video or the autopsy findings to the family would do to harm this investigation this long after the shooting. But, it would do an enormous amount to help them understand the senseless killing of their child.”
Ghaisar was pursued by Park Police after allegedly leaving the scene of a car accident at the intersection of Slaters Lane and George Washington Memorial Parkway at 7:30 p.m. Park Police said their officers spotted Ghaisar’s Jeep heading south on the parkway, and Roessler said Monday that a Fairfax officer heard radio traffic about the pursuit and followed behind the Park Police officer beginning at 7:37 p.m. at Tulane Drive.
The pursuit ended at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue with at least one Park Police officer firing into Ghaisar’s car at 7:41 p.m., according to radio traffic. Ghaisar’s family members said he was struck three times in the head, and they have been given no explanation why. Ghaisar died Nov. 27.
Roessler clarified that only one department car captured the actual shooting, with a second video recording only the scene after the gunfire. He said he has watched the first video, but he declined to describe what it shows. No Fairfax officers fired their weapons, he said.
“When the in-car video is no longer needed for officer interviews,” Roessler said, “and will not interfere with the investigation, I strongly recommend it be released to the community. The in-car video should not be held for the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, which could potentially take many months, or more. It’s important for the information it contains to be shared with the Ghaisar family, and our community, so we can all start to understand the facts of this officer-involved shooting by the United States Park Police.”
Roessler said that “the law enforcement profession needs to increase its transparency.” He noted that he had released videos previously and that “the public has the right to know, the Ghaisar family has the right to know.”
Fairfax police were criticized for their lack of transparency in the August 2013 fatal shooting of an unarmed man, John Geer, and for not releasing any information about it until January 2015. Roessler has been adamant about improving his department’s transparency since then.
The police chief said he did not have a timeline for when the FBI might finish its investigation. “Once they get done with the interviews,” he said, “it’s my hope we will release the video,” which is technically Fairfax County’s property but has been turned over to the FBI for its investigation. “I don’t have a timeline. I don’t think it’s my role to press them for a timeline for their investigation.” He did not know when he might find it appropriate to seek the video’s release. “Down the road, that’s a decision I’ll have to make in conference with the FBI,” Roessler said.
Ghaisar, 25, was an accountant for his father’s McLean firm and a graduate of Langley High School and Virginia Commonwealth University. His family said he did not have a weapon.