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Fairfax County Police Department footage of Park Police shooting McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar (via FCPD)

It has been five years since U.S. Park Police officers pursued and shot McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar in Fort Hunt, ultimately killing him.

Still seeking closure and accountability for the officers involved, Ghaisar’s family will mark the five-year anniversary of the shooting with a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. at 7 p.m. today.

The vigil is being organized by the Bijan Ghaisar Foundation, which was formed by the family to honor their loved one and advocate for victims of police brutality and gun violence.

“The pain, anger, and frustration never diminishes,” the organization said on Facebook. “…We hope you can join us and help keep [Bijan’s] spirit and memories alive, and to continue to demand accountability. We have not and will not stop fighting.”

Ghaisar died in a hospital on Nov. 27, 2017 — 10 days after two Park Police officers shot him nine times, concluding an extended chase from George Washington Parkway to the Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue intersection. He was 25 years old.

A criminal case against the officers, identified as Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, was dismissed last year by a judge who said they “were authorized by federal law to act as they did.” A dispatcher initially said Ghaisar was responsible for a hit-and-run, but later clarified that his vehicle was in fact the one that had been hit, court documents said.

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general at the time, appealed the ruling with backing from Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, but Attorney General Jason Miyares dropped the manslaughter charges against the officers in April after he took office.

After previously suggesting it would help with the prosecution, the Justice Department said in June that it won’t pursue federal charges against Amaya and Vinyard after all, stating that it “does not have an adequate basis to reopen its prior investigation.”

Ghaisar’s family still has a civil personal injury lawsuit against the Park Police pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria.

According to The Washington Post, Amaya and Vinyard declined to answer questions about their actions at depositions last month, prompting Ghaisar’s family to file a motion asking the judge to compel them to provide testimony. A hearing on that motion has been scheduled for Dec. 9.

In a joint statement released this morning, Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine along with Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton said the Department of the Interior, which includes the Park Police, “has taken several positive steps” in response to Ghaisar’s shooting, including a new requirement that officers wear body cameras.

However, reiterating sentiments voiced by elected officials over the past half-decade, the legislators expressed frustration with the lack of accountability and transparency around the federal investigations into the shooting:

Today marks five years since Bijan was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police. While we appreciate that the current leadership of the Department of the Interior has taken several positive steps to ensure that the failures that led to the tragic death of this young man don’t happen again, we remain deeply disappointed that the Ghaisar family’s pleas for justice and closure have not yet been answered. Bijan’s friends and family deserve closure for the killing of Bijan, which includes making sure that the individuals responsible for his death are finally held accountable.

Investigations involving use of force should be handled in a timely manner and include constant information sharing with the families involved and the public. Failure to do so undermines public trust in law enforcement and our institutions. It is our sincere hope that through increased transparency and communication, the Ghaisar family will finally receive the closure they need.

Per the Post, Vinyard and Amaya are on paid administrative leave and haven’t returned to active duty since the shooting. The Interior Department moved to fire them last year, but they filed a challenge that is still pending.

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Morning Notes

A Ben and Jerry’s truck hands out ice cream in a Vienna neighborhood (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Criminal Case for Bijan Ghaisar Shooting Ends — The Justice Department won’t reopen a federal investigation into two U.S. Park Police officers who fatally shot McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar in 2017. Ghaisar’s family called the decision “a betrayal,” but it will allow their civil lawsuit that has been pending since October 2020 to move forward. [WTOP, The Washington Post]

Police Look for Man Reported Missing — “53YO Juan Ward last seen at 12:47pm on May 25 in 12500 blk of Dillingham Sq. in Woodbridge. 5’11”, 185lbs, black/grey hair, brown eyes, wearing a long-sleeve grey sweatshirt. Missing under unusual circumstances. Call 703-691-2131 w/info.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Two Rescued from Vehicle Crash on I-95 — “Approximately 3 a.m. [Saturday], units were on scene of a one vehicle crash, I-95 NB prior to Telegraph Rd. Rescue Squads 426 and 411 extricated two patients who were heavily entrapped in a pick up truck. Fire Department, City of Alexandria, VA assisted. Transported w/ non-life-threatening injuries.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Seven Displaced by Annandale House Fire — “At 3:09 a.m., units dispatched for a house fire in the 3900 block of Terrance Drive, Annadale. Units arrived with fire showing. Multiple occupants were removed or assisted from the home by #FCFRD. No reported injuries. 7 displaced.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

FCPD Continues Oakton Crash Site Investigation — “On Thursday morning, Fairfax County Police returned to the scene of a deadly crash involving seven Oakton High students. They said they came back to do more investigating to make sure they give the commonwealth’s attorney the evidence he needs to decide on charges.” [ABC7]

Armed Robbery Reported in Tysons — “1700 block of Tysons Central Street, 6/8/22, 2:44 a.m. Four men approached the victim when he exited his taxi. Two men displayed firearms, took property, and fled the area in a vehicle.” [FCPD]

Annandale School Starts Principal Search — “Annandale Terrace parents will soon have an opportunity to participate in the selection process for a new principal. The current principal, Lisa Pilson, will start a new job July 1 as director of early childhood curriculum and grants management with Fairfax County Public Schools.” [Annandale Today]

Lifeguard Shortage Not an Issue in Reston — As of Wednesday (June 8), Reston Assocation has managed to hire 186 lifeguards for its swimming pools, a number it didn’t meet last year until September. While many pools across the country have struggled to find staff, RA says it retained 71% of lifeguards from last year and will continue hiring through the season to prepare for next year. [Patch]

It’s Monday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Cranes loom behind Wiehle-Reston East Metro station plaza (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Autopsies in Fairfax County Murders Still Pending — “Autopsies have been unable to determine how three victims of suspected ‘shopping cart killer’ Anthony Eugene Robinson died…Robinson is suspected of killing at least four people whose remains were found in Alexandria and Harrisonburg, Virginia, as well as the District.” [WTOP]

Spring Farm Day Canceled at Frying Pan — This year’s Spring Farm Day at Frying Pan Farm Park on Saturday (May 7) has been canceled due to rainy weather in the forecast. Anyone who registered in advance should receive an email with more information. [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

The Boro Restaurants Aim for July Openings — Despite a broker site plan that lists June 1 opening dates, the restaurants El Bebe, Circa, and Caliburger aren’t expected to be ready until mid-July, a spokesperson for the Tysons development recently told FFXnow. The Boro will, however, bring back its simultaneous chess tournament on May 21. [The Boro, Tysons Today]

Congress Members Urge Action on Ghaisar Case — “Seven members of Congress, including six from the D.C. area, are asking the Justice Department to revisit the case of Bijan Ghaisar, the Virginia motorist who was shot and killed by the U.S. Park Police in 2017.” [WTOP]

Herndon Police Find ATM Skimming Device — “Subjects will install a panel containing a pin-hole camera that records you entering your PIN number while another device reads your card number. Please be diligent when using ATM machines. Always use a hand to cover the pad when entering your PIN number; and if you notice a camera…please contact #HerndonPD immediately” [Herndon Police Department/Facebook]

Maximus Leaves Reston Station for Tysons — “The $4.5 billion federal contractor that specializes in the administration of government programs like Medicaid, Medicare, federal student loans and veterans services said Tuesday it formally made the move to Lerner Enterprises’ 1600 Tysons Blvd. The company said the new space is 90,000 square feet across five floors.” [Washington Business Journal]

Back Away From the Fawn, Police Say — “It is common for people to encounter white-tailed deer fawns motionless and without their mother, then mistakenly assume it is orphaned or abandoned. In almost all cases, fawns are only temporarily left by their mothers for protection and just need to be left alone.” [FCPD]

Great Falls ArtFest Returns This Weekend — “Great Falls Studios will hold its annual Spring ArtFest May 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at four locations in Great Falls. Venues will include The Grange and Old Schoolhouse at 9818 Georgetown Pike, plus three art studios in the Village Center.” [Sun Gazette]

Tennis Court Repairs Restart Next Month — Contractor ATC will resume resurfacing tennis and pickleball courts at Linway Terrace in McLean and Wakefield Park in Annandale in early June. Work at both sites began in the fall but was suspended due to unfavorable weather conditions. [FCPA]

It’s Thursday — Possible light rain overnight. High of 66 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:07 am and sunset at 8:06 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Police Department footage of Park Police shooting McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar (via FCPD)

The parents of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, the McLean resident killed by U.S. Park Police in 2017, and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano have voiced their dismay over Virginia’s decision to drop a criminal case against the officers.

At the behest of Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, the Commonwealth filed a motion on Friday (April 22) to drop the manslaughter charges against the officers. A federal appeals court officially dismissed the case yesterday (Monday).

“I remain saddened and dumbfounded,” Descano said yesterday (Monday) in a statement. “Not only did they lose their beloved son, but time and again, actors in the criminal justice system treated them with appalling coldness and brutality.”

Three former U.S. attorneys general — William Barr, Edwin Meese and Michael Mukasey, all Republicans — weighed in on the criminal case with an amicus brief a day before the Commonwealth’s motion.

Former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, had filed an appeal of the criminal case in January to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. He lost his bid for reelection in November.

Descano, also a Democrat, sought to bring criminal charges against the Park Police officers, identified as Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard. A grand jury indicted the men in October 2020 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.

But a year later, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ruled in favor of the Park Police officers, dismissing the case.

Descano said he’ll now turn his attention to advocating for the Department of Justice to prosecute the case. The DOJ previously declined to pursue charges against the officers in 2019, but the department indicated last summer that it would be open to assisting in a prosecution.

If federal prosecutors pass on the case again, it would allow for the resumption of a civil lawsuit that James and Kelara Ghaisar, Bijan’s parents, filed against the U.S. government. The lawsuit has been on hold since October 2020.

Efforts by the family, community members, and elected officials to hold the Park Police officers accountable for Bijan Ghaisar’s death have now dragged on for more than four years after he was shot at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue.

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement yesterday (Monday) that their “hearts go out to Bijan Ghaisar’s loved ones, who have spent more than four years searching for closure following the fatal shooting of Bijan by two U.S. Park Police officers. We are deeply disappointed by this decision by Attorney General Miyares to end Virginia’s pursuit of justice for Bijan and his family. This decision only stands to cause further harm to the Fairfax County community while preventing a heartbroken family from reaching the closure they desperately need.”

At a federal court hearing in October 2020, an attorney for the family argued that they had been waiting for years and a case shouldn’t be paused indefinitely.

“Almost three years ago Bijan Ghaisar was gunned down by two Park Police officers,” attorney Tom Connolly said at the October 2020 hearing. “His family has waited now three years to get some semblance of justice in this case.”

Hilton agreed and set a status conference for the civil case for March 26, 2021. But three days before that date, the court said the meeting was put on hold with a rescheduling “to be determined.”

The wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, seeks $25 million and other damages and costs, alleging negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other charges.

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