US Park Police officers involved in fatal Virginia shooting identified after 16 months

Posted at 5:16 AM, Apr 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-01 05:19:37-04

After more than 16 months, the US Park Police officers involved in the fatal shooting of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar have been identified.

According to an amended complaint the Ghaisar family filed in US District Court on Friday, officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard fatally shot Ghaisar, 25, after he left the scene of a minor traffic accident in Northern Virginia on November 17, 2017.

Ghaisar, who was unarmed, was taken to a hospital, where he spent 10 days in a coma before dying on November 27, 2017.

The Ghaisar family and their supporters have spent the months since trying in vain to get answers from the US Park Police and the FBI, which is overseeing the investigation into the shooting: Who were the officers involved? Why did they pursue Ghaisar for what appeared to be a minor incident? Why wouldn’t US Park Police release any information to the family?

According to their amended complaint — which formally names Amaya and Vinyard as defendants — the family learned the identities after it issued a subpoena to the Fairfax County Police Department, whose officers were at the scene of the shooting assisting US Park Police, a federal police force under the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior.

Fairfax County police produced documents indicating the officers involved were Amaya and Vinyard, the complaint says.

Counsel for the US Park Police subsequently confirmed their identities to the Ghaisar family on March 12, according to the complaint.

“After almost 500 days of the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the US Park Police fiercely protecting the privacy of these men so they could live their lives without public account and scrub their pasts, we now know their names,” the family said in a Friday statement.

But they won’t stop there, the family said.

“It is not enough to know who pulled the trigger and ended Bijan’s life as it was just beginning,” they said. “We demand justice for our son and brother — and we will continue to fight for it until we get it.”

Reached Friday, a spokesman for the US Park Police confirmed that “those were the names that we gave the family.” The officers remain on administrative duty.

CNN’s attempts to reach Amaya and Vinyard for comment have been unsuccessful.

The FBI declined to comment Friday, citing an ongoing investigation.

The Department of Justice declined to comment Friday. The DOJ would determine whether the officers would face charges.

The night of the shooting

The Fairfax County Police Department’s decision to reveal the officers’ identities is in line with its prior actions.

What little information is known about the case is largely due to the department’s decision to release dashcam footage of the shooting “as a matter of transparency” in January 2018.

No Fairfax County police officers discharged their weapons during the incident.

On the night of the shooting, Ghaisar was rear-ended while driving south on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

For unknown reasons, Ghaisar left the scene, which is illegal in Virginia if there has been an injury or property damage.

Not long after, the US Park Police began to pursue Ghaisar.

According to the dashcam footage released by Fairfax County police, Ghaisar pulled over three times as officers chased him.

Each time, officers exited their vehicle with their guns drawn and pointed at Ghaisar, who twice maneuvered his vehicle around the police and drove away.

The third time he stopped, however, the officers fired into Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. The family has said he was struck in the head four times.

Incident reports from Fairfax County police — which were released last fall in response to Freedom of Information requests by The Washington Post and the Ghaisar family — later confirmed what the family had long said: Ghaisar was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

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