BY NOW it is difficult to resist the impression that the federal government is engaged in a coverup in the death of a 25-year-old accountant, Bijan Ghaisar, shot to death by U.S. Park Police last November. That was eight months ago — eight months in which neither the Park Police nor the agency to which it reports, the Interior Department; nor the FBI, which is investigating the incident; nor the Justice Department has released information.
We generally reject conspiracy theories, but the government’s handling of the killing of Mr. Ghaisar is eroding our resistance. After eight months, it’s past time to put the unavoidable question to the relevant U.S. officials — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. What does the government have to hide?
Why won’t Mr. Wray discuss the case with Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents the Northern Virginia district where Mr. Ghaisar was shot? (When Mr. Beyer requested a meeting, Mr. Wray refused.) Why won’t Mr. Zinke authorize the Park Police to release the names of the two officers who fired nine shots at the apparently unarmed Mr. Ghaisar, hitting him three times in the head, following a minor fender bender in which Mr. Ghaisar himself was rear-ended? Why won’t Mr. Sessions instruct prosecutors and FBI investigators to come clean with their findings?
Why have none of the agencies offered even a bare-bones account to explain why the police opened fire on Mr. Ghaisar, who, a video of the incident strongly suggests, appeared to present no threat to himself, the officers or anyone else? (The video was recorded and subsequently released by Fairfax County police, whose cruiser trailed the Park Police vehicle but who took no part in the shooting.)
To recap: Mr. Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was hit from behind on the George Washington Memorial Parkway last Nov. 17. The damage was minor; no one was injured. For unknown reasons, he didn’t stop, and a passenger in the other car called the police.
Minutes later, the Park Police, which patrols the parkway, responded and tried to pull Mr. Ghaisar over. Twice he stopped, then pulled away, though not at a high speed. This may well have frustrated the officers, though that hardly explains why, each time, they approached his car with guns drawn, which is not standard procedure for an incident involving a road accident. Nor did Mr. Ghaisar’s conduct, however misguided, seem aggressive or threatening. Mr. Ghaisar was shot after he stopped a third time and then, as officers approached again with guns drawn, his car began slowly rolling away from the police.
What is the explanation for the shooting? Why did the FBI return to the scene (or go for the first time) only last month, and appear to search the brush where the shooting took place — seven months after the fact? Why have the Park Police officers, who are on paid administrative leave, not been identified, as most police agencies do after a shooting?
If the government is not trying to hide the truth, what is the reason for eight months of secrecy surrounding Mr. Ghaisar’s killing?