IT’S TIME for the FBI to wake from the deep slumber masquerading as its investigation into the death of Bijan Ghaisar, the unarmed driver needlessly shot to death by U.S. Park Police officers nearly 14 months ago near Washington. As the agency’s somnolence stretches month after month, its contempt for the Ghaisar family’s grief and the public’s right to know becomes ever clearer.
To date, the FBI has ignored calls from the Ghaisar family for an accounting of what happened. It has thumbed its nose at the congressman representing the Northern Virginia district where the shooting took place, whose request for a meeting with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was rebuffed. Now it is dragging its feet in responding to a Dec. 17 letter from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee until this month, who demanded information on Ghaisar’s senseless, unwarranted death.
“The Ghaisar family . . . should not have to wait over a year to learn the facts of this case,” the senator wrote in a letter to Mr. Wray. “Both his family and the public are entitled to a complete, credible and independent accounting of the events surrounding the death of Mr. Ghaisar.”
Mr. Grassley asked that the agency respond by Dec. 28 — so far, ignored — to a handful of simple, straightforward queries, including whether it had completed its investigation. In the alternative, he requested that the FBI provide the Judiciary Committee with a progress report and a projected date on which the inquiry would be finished. Finally, Mr. Grassley asked if the FBI would provide a copy of its investigative report to the committee, adding, “If not, why not?”
Those are all excellent questions that together raise an even more basic one: On what basis does the FBI justify a policy of arrogance and unaccountability in the Ghaisar case, which now spans more than 400 days?
In police-involved shootings nationwide, many (though not all) state and local law enforcement departments have opted for greater transparency, providing at least basic information — including officers’ identities — pending the outcome of investigations. The goal is to cultivate public trust through openness.
That seems irrelevant to the FBI, to which the Park Police referred the investigation within days of the Nov. 17, 2017, shooting of Ghaisar. Much of what is known about the shooting came to light only because another agency, the Fairfax County Police Department, released dash-cam video of the incident, shot by a patrol car that was trailing the Park Police vehicle.
It shows Ghaisar, who continued driving after his car was rear-ended in a minor fender-bender on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, being pursued by the Park Police, though not at a high speed. Twice he pulls over, only to drive off when the Park Police officers approach his car with pistols drawn — though he presents no apparent threat. The third time he pulls over, his car rolls slowly away from the two officers, who this time open fire, shooting nine times at Ghaisar.
How did a fender-bender come to that? What were the police thinking? Why did they draw their guns in the first place? Those are questions that deserve answers. But the FBI is mum.