US Park Police officers charged with manslaughter in shooting of Bijan Ghaisar
FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - Nine months after Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano opened a criminal investigation into the 2017 police-involved shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, he announced Thursday that two U.S. Park Police officers have been charged.
Descano says each officer was indicted separately for one count of manslaughter and one count of reckless discharge of a firearm.
READ MORE: Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney investigating Bijan Ghaisar shooting
On Nov. 17, 2017, U.S. Park Police officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard shot Ghaisar after they attempted to stop him and his SUV started to pull away.
Prior to the shooting, Ghaisar had left the scene of a minor crash on the George Washington Parkway.
READ MORE: Officers: We gave 'chance after chance' before 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar
In September, documents made public in a civil suit filed by Ghaisar's parents provided the first real insight into the thought process of officers Amaya and Vinyard.
Dashcam video of the chase and shooting prompted outrage, as the vehicle appeared to be approaching the officers at a slow speed.
Ghaisar's family and several lawmakers believe the officers acted unreasonably and with excessive force, but the officers say they reasonably feared for their lives after Ghaisar drove toward them.
"Vinyard advised that he and Amaya gave Ghaisar 'chance after chance to stop, then he runs after Amaya with the Jeep,'" FBI agents wrote in a summary of their interview with Vinyard from last year.
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The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case.
U.S. Park Police officials have never publically said why the officers opened fire on Ghaisar.
Descano says the officers are not in custody at this time.
Both officers are facing a mandatory 15 years in prison if found guilty – 10 for manslaughter and five for reckless discharge of a firearm.
Watch the press conference below:
The Ghaisar family shared the following statement after the indictments were announced Thursday:
"Our heavy hearts are a little lighter tonight knowing that the police officers who murdered our son and brother are closer to being held accountable for what they did. Too many of the people who are sworn to protect and serve our communities commit heinous acts of violence and go unpunished. With these charges we are reminded that, at least here in Fairfax County, Officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard are not above the law.
Our Bijan suffered the most brutal terror and cruelty in his final moments of life. We know this because it was caught on police video and we watched it. Our family has a permanent hole in it - one that no amount of time or any act could possibly fill or heal. We carry this grief with us as we have fought, and will continue to fight, for justice for Bijan and so many other victims of police brutality. We will not stop demanding justice for Bijan until we get it – today was a first step.
We are deeply grateful to so many in this community and others farther flung who have supported us and joined in this fight with us. We would like to express our deep gratitude to Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano and his staff and Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler for their decency, courage and commitment to serving this community. They have sought justice and accountability in this case despite many challenges.
“We would also like to thank our elected representatives who were dogged in their pursuit to get information from the U.S. Park Police and for using their platforms to elevate these important issues and advance important policy reforms. They are: Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Chuck Grassley, Reps. Don Beyer, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jennifer Wexton, and TJ Cox, and Virginia state senator Scott Surovell and Delegate Kaye Kory.”