AT LAST there is video evidence that the death of Bijan C. Ghaisar, the unarmed man shot repeatedly by U.S. Park Police in November following a hit-and-run accident, was just as senseless and unjustifiable as published reports had suggested. The dashboard-camera video, released Wednesday, is a chilling display of police appearing to recklessly take a life because — well, why?
The video was made public by Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., who for weeks had pushed FBI officials investigating the shooting to allow Mr. Ghaisar's family to watch it. After the family on Sunday was finally shown the video — recorded by county patrol officers who trailed the Park Police and witnessed the shooting — Mr. Roessler, to his credit, ordered it posted online.
It takes a strong stomach to watch. Here was a young man, Mr. Ghaisar, a native of Virginia, a resident of McLean and an accountant with no criminal record, who had been rear-ended on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, just south of the District. For some reason, he drove off, turning the incident into a hit-and-run. Within minutes he was pursued by a Park Police patrol car, sirens blaring and lights flashing, which was then tailed by the Fairfax County police patrol car.
Twice in the space of a couple of minutes, Mr. Ghaisar, who drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee, pulled over and then, when approached aggressively by the Park Police officers with guns drawn, drove off again at moderate speed.
Perhaps he was frightened; who wouldn't be? Certainly, he exercised bad judgment in disobeying and driving away from the police, who evidently were ordering him from his vehicle. Yet that was scarcely justification for what came next.
Having come to a voluntary halt at a stop sign, Mr. Ghaisar was cut off by the Park Police, who then jumped from their car and, as the Jeep rolled slightly forward and away from the two officers, opened fire. In all, they fired nine shots, at least four of which hit him in the head, according to medical records cited by Mr. Ghaisar's lawyers. A bullet also struck him in the wrist.
The video's release is a start, but only a start, at public transparency and accountability for what, for now, looks like a plainly unnecessary death. The FBI has said nothing about its investigation. The police who shot Mr. Ghaisar have not been identified; nor have they offered any reason for why they opened fire; nor has the Park Police made public its policies on vehicle pursuits and use of force.
What possible policies or circumstances could justify an event in which officers in no apparent danger opened fire at an unarmed man, who died 10 days later? Perhaps the Park Police know a side of the story they have yet to tell; or maybe they seek to play down a tragic case of misconduct. Either way, the agency's silence is reprehensible.
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