Bijan Ghaisar’s parents ask for former Park Police chief to be removed from task force

Kelly and James Ghaisar protesting on July 20, 2021, outside the U.S. Department of the Interior. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

The mother and father of Bijan Ghaisar protested Tuesday outside the U.S. Interior Department’s Northwest D.C. headquarters, asking for former U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean to be removed from a federal task force he was recently appointed to.

MacLean, who was chief in 2017 when Ghaisar was killed by two Park Police officers, was appointed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to lead a task force that will review law enforcement policies and practices.

“Our son was murdered under Chief MacLean’s watch, and he did nothing,” said Ghaisar’s mother, Kelly. “We are here to plead with Secretary Haaland to remove Chief MacLean from the task force.”

As part of its work, the task force plans to focus on the violent crackdown of protesters in Lafayette Square in 2020 during the Trump administration.

“They choose the perfect time to do this and twist the knife a little bit more,” Kelly Ghaisar said. “He has done nothing but to silence and cover up for Bijan’s murderers.”

Ghaisar, 25, was unarmed when he was shot.

WTOP has asked the Interior Department for comment.

Officers still in the legal system

In April, a judge placed the prosecution of the two Park Police officers who shot Ghaisar under federal jurisdiction.

State and local prosecutors argued unsuccessfully at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria that the involuntary manslaughter cases against officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard should remain in the Virginia court system.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton means local prosecutors can still pursue the case, but it will be heard in federal court rather than state court.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano obtained indictments last year against Amaya and Vinyard after a stop-and-go chase on the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the nation’s capital. Ghaisar was fatally shot after authorities say he left the scene of an accident after being rear-ended.

Descano indicted the officers after the Justice Department opted against filing criminal charges.

The officers sought to have the case removed from state jurisdiction, citing their status as federal officers. They argued that they have immunity from state prosecution under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because they were acting as federal officers when the shooting happened.

Dashcam video released by Fairfax County Police, who played a supporting role in the chase, shows the chase beginning on the parkway, then continuing into a residential neighborhood. It shows the car driven by Ghaisar stopping twice during the chase, and officers approaching the car with guns drawn. In both cases, Ghaisar drives off.

At the third and final stop, officers with guns drawn approach the car at the driver’s-side door. When the car starts to move again, five gunshots are heard. The car starts to drift into a ditch, and two more sets of two gunshots are heard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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