In December, more than a year after Park Police officers fired nine times into the vehicle of Bijan Ghaisar, killing him after he was involved in a fender bender in Northern Virginia, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote the FBI, asking for a report and an update on the investigation. He requested it be produced in 11 days; the FBI replied after three months — and the answer was that the bureau would release no information about an active investigation.
Mr. Grassley tried again, asking FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to explain the slow response, to calculate how many man hours had been devoted to the Ghaisar investigation from its outset, and how many in the previous 30 days. The bureau’s response to that was silence.
What is it about the slaying of Ghaisar, a football fan with no criminal record, that has inspired such callous indifference? Neither the FBI, which took over the investigation three days after the incident, nor the Justice Department and U.S. attorney’s office for Washington, which are overseeing it, nor the Park Police, whose officers opened fire, have shown the slightest compunction in the case, nor any sense of urgency. It’s as if anyone could be gunned down by law enforcement — on the flimsiest pretext or none at all — and the collective response of federal authorities would be a shrug.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) also butted his head against a wall with the National Park Service, which exercises authority over the Park Police, posing a few straightforward questions in a letter last fall. He asked about Park Police policies on body-worn cameras; use of force; officers’ authority outside national parks; and the number of officers involved in shootings. In response, the NPS ignored some of the senator’s questions and offered cursory replies to others.
Mr. Grassley and Mr. Warner wrote to the FBI again Tuesday, asking for an update and for replies to previously unanswered questions. Give them credit for persistence. Bear in mind that it was only on account of a civil suit brought by Ghaisar’s parents that the names of the Park Police officers, Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya, were finally released in March. They remain on administrative duty with pay. Meanwhile, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) are pressing legislation that would require Park Police officers to wear body cameras.
No matter how many times one watches the video of Ghaisar’s shooting, recorded by a Fairfax County police cruiser that tailed the Park Police vehicle, it’s impossible to see how the shooting could be justified. Ghaisar erred by failing to stop after his car was rear-ended on the George Washington Parkway, and by twice driving away when the Park Police officers pulled him over. That may have frustrated the officers; it did not justify his execution.