Questions raised over Park Police policies after deadly shooting

WASHINGTON — After police dashcam video of the pursuit and shooting of Bijan Ghaisar was released, WTOP is taking a look at the policies of United States Park Police that apply to the shooting.

Ghaisar, 25, died from his injuries two weeks after U.S. Park Police officers chased him down the George Washington Parkway Nov. 17, 2017, and shot him in the Fort Hunt neighborhood of Fairfax County, Virginia. Police said he struck another car while driving. The FBI is investigating whether the shooting was justified.

U.S. Park Police directed WTOP to its use-of-force and pursuit policies posted online. One day after the controversial release of the dashcam video of the chase by the Fairfax County Police Department (which assisted in pursuing Ghaisar’s Jeep that evening), those policies are available to the public.

The U.S. Park Police policy reads that a vehicular pursuit is authorized only when: “the officer has reason to believe a felony has occurred or is occurring. Or the suspect presents a clear and immediate threat to public safety.”

It notes, “The act of fleeing and eluding the police shall not in itself be a pursuable offense.”

In the video, Ghaisar of McLean, Virginia comes to a rolling stop twice during the chase. At the third stop, it shows officers firing into his rolling car nine times.

The Park Police department’s use-of-deadly-force policy reads that officers shall not fire at a moving vehicle, “except when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

Because of the FBI investigation, the department is limited in what it can say. But after the video was released, U.S. Park Police Chief Robert D. MacLean said in a statement, “While respecting the integrity of the investigation, I also recognize the desire for more information and details surrounding the investigation.”

Ghaisar’s family has called for an expedient investigation, and on Thursday, the NAACP joined the family in its call for transparency.

“The continued secrecy by the U.S. Park Police shows a lack of simple human consideration for Mr. Ghaisar’s family, as well as to the communities under the agency’s jurisdiction. We demand all federal law enforcement officers are held to the same standards as others who police our communities,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson, said in a statement.

Police around the country have come under fire over how and when officers use deadly force following a string of high-profile shootings of unarmed drivers. Ghaisar’s family has said he was unarmed.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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