A Year Later, Still No Answers for Family of Bijan Ghaisar

A Year Later, Still No Answers for Family of Bijan Ghaisar

Last year, Bijan Ghaisar died ten days after the National Park Police in Virginia opened fire and shot the unarmed 25-year-old motorist four times in the head at point-blank range after a minor collision. A total of nine shots were fired.

Since the shooting on November 17, 2017, neither the Park Police nor the FBI (the investigating agency) have named the two officers who shot Ghaisar. They also haven’t offered any explanation as to why they shot the young man or whether the officers will face charges.

Ghaisar’s grief-stricken and frustrated mother, Kelly, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post on January 11, 2019, in which she excoriates the Park Police and others for the lack of information. “Give us answers, give us the names, give us justice,” she writes.

A Gathering at the Lincoln Memorial

In November, on the one-year anniversary of the shootings, Ghaisar’s family and hundreds of supporters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to remember the young man and continue demanding justice. Over the past year, family and supporters have demonstrated outside the Justice Department, outside the Interior Department, which oversees the Park Police and outside the station where the officers were assigned.

Supporters chanted, “We want names. We want justice. We are Bijan.” Ghaisars’ supporters who have spoken at events include representatives from the NAACP, Amnesty International, and Mothers Against Police Brutality, as well as Virginia state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax County) and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield). Still, nothing has been forthcoming.

Bijan Ghaisar, in Life and Death

The young man shot that cold November night, a first generation American of Iranian descent, advocated non-violence and peace and loathed guns. He was a practicing Buddhist who loved football and was politically liberal. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, he worked for his father’s accounting and lived in his home town of McLean.

Jail Death & Injury stated that when he learned of the deadly shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in 2012, Ghaisar posted on Facebook that it was upsetting to know it was legal to own a 100-round semiautomatic rifle. He grew up respecting law enforcement, as his maternal grandfather was the chief of police in Shiraz, Iran.

Why are Officers Protected?

His mother writes that she does not understand why the officers who killed her son have been protected. She points out that doctors who harm patients are held accountable. So are bus drivers who run over someone in a crosswalk.

“But apparently, if you are a Park Police officer, even when you don’t follow your own department’s rules governing the handling and use of firearms, you enjoy special status as part of an untouchable fraternity. This cruelty, this entitlement, cannot stand,” she writes.

Kelly Ghaisar is absolutely right. Far too many police officers are not held accountable for the deadly actions they take. Bijan Ghaisar was involved in a minor collision, in which no one was hurt.

He did leave the scene of the accident, so there was a reason for the Park Police to pursue him, but why these officers decided to fire nine shots at an unarmed young man is still unknown. Sometimes the unknown – not knowing who, what caused a death – can hurt a surviving loved one the most.

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Joseph Tully

Joseph Tully is a certified specialist in criminal law by the California state bar and has been recognized as a Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney by Attorney and Practice Magazine. He is also one of an elite few having earned the designation of The Nation's Top 1% by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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