FBI: ‘Premature’ release of Park Police fatal shooting video ‘risks fair, impartial’ investigation

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation will not yet release video showing the shooting of a Northern Virginia man by U.S. Park Police after a pursuit on the George Washington Parkway, despite requests from the Fairfax County police chief and Board of Supervisors.

On Nov. 17, Bijan Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, was fatally shot by a Park Police officer. The chase and shooting were captured on a cruiser’s dashcam and turned over to the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler and Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova separately called on the FBI to publicly release the video of the deadly shooting.

In a Dec. 11 letter to Bulova, Andrew Vale, assistant director in charge for the FBI’s Washington Field Office said the Bureau is not ready to release the video.

“While evidentiary items possessed by the FBI are often of public interest, the premature release of this video risks a fair, impartial, and unbiased investigation,” wrote Vale. “The FBI intends to release the dashcam video at the conclusion of specific investigative actions, so as not to prejudice the ongoing investigation.”

Bulova said Wednesday she understands the FBI’s need to complete a thorough study of the incident.

“No one wants to interfere with an investigation,” Bulova said. “And no one wants an investigation to be compromised, so that justice cannot be served.”

“But, as soon as possible, it’s important that kind of information is shared with the public, and especially is shared with the family of the young man who lost his life,” said Bulova.

Vale’s letter said “the FBI is committed to transparency and providing as much information to the public,” as possible, without sacrificing a case.

“A lack of transparency is something that can lose the public’s trust,” Bulova told WTOP. “Fairfax County certainly has learned that lesson, and our policy today is to share as much information as possible, without jeopardizing an investigation.”

Fairfax County police were criticized for lack of transparency in the August 2013 fatal shooting of an unarmed man, John Geer.

The county has a new civilian review panel made up of nine residents, as well as an independent police auditor. Both can review completed police investigations.

While it was originally unclear how many Park Police officers were involved in the shooting, Vale’s letter specifies the Nov. 17 shooting investigation involves two officers. Vale did not name the officers.

Ghaisar’s family said he was shot in the head three times.

Ghaisar graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015 with a degree in accounting. He worked in the family’s accounting firm in McLean.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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