Va. family files $25M lawsuit in Park Police fatal shooting

From left: Kouros Emami, Bijan Ghaisar's brother-in-law; Negeen Ghaisar, his sister; lawyer Roy Austin, and Bijan's parents, Kelara and James Ghaisar, announcing a $25 million lawsuit in Bijan Ghaisar's death. (WTOP/John Aaron)

WASHINGTON – A McLean family asking for answers in a police shooting death is now demanding them in a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit.

The family of Bijan Ghaisar is suing the U.S. government and the officers who opened fire on him, among others. The officers’ names still haven’t been released, and the lawsuit demands they be identified. It also calls for the release of a 911 call.

Last November, U.S. Park Police officers opened fire on Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee following a chase, which began after the 25-year-old accountant was rear-ended on the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria.

According to the lawsuit, Ghaisar drove away from the scene and was pursued by Park Police. Attorneys say he stopped on three occasions as he was followed, and each time, officers jumped from their cruiser, raced to his car and pointed their guns at his head.

On the third stop, the lawsuit said, Ghaisar came to a complete stop in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County. Officers blocked his path with their patrol car, jumped out and fired nine shots at close range as Ghaisar sat behind the wheel. The lawsuit cited a video, saying Ghaisar’s Jeep appeared to roll forward slightly before he was shot four times in the left side of the head and once in his right wrist.

“We have sought the 911 call … the U.S. Department of Justice has said that it should not be made available,” said Roy Austin, a lawyer for the Ghaiser family, at a news conference Friday. “We have sought names of the officers … the Department of Justice has said those should not be available.”

“We can’t get any information, and for this to be happening eight months after a shooting is truly unprecedented,” he said.

Austin outlined the lawsuit’s accusations, which include negligence, assault and battery, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress and use of excessive force. He repeatedly called the officers involved out of control and overly aggressive.

Austin praised the Fairfax County police for turning over the dash-camera video from a county police car that had joined the chase. It was filming when the officers began shooting.

“The family simply wants some semblance of justice for the killing of their son and brother,” he said. “Today’s lawsuit allows them to seek that justice in a court of law.”

‘I don’t think I will ever recover’

Ghaisar’s father, James, fought through tears as he described the toll the incident has taken on him and his family. “I don’t think I will ever recover from this for the rest of my life. I don’t think time, in this case, would help.” He said. “I’m only here to get justice for my son and be a father to my daughter and a husband to my wife.”

The lawsuit further accuses the park police of denying the family access to Bijan as he lay critically injured in the hospital. He remained in a coma for 10 days after the shooting before he died.

The family plans to use any money that might be awarded to them to fund a foundation that focuses on reducing police violence and improving relationships with police departments.

The lawyers for the family filed in July a series of Freedom of Information Act requests on the Park Police and the FBI. Last February, two Democratic members of Congress said the U.S. Park Police chief refused to meet with them to talk about police procedures following the shooting.

The investigation involves the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The U.S. Attorney’s office had no comment on the lawsuit.

An FBI spokesperson called this an “ongoing matter” and did not have any additional comment.

U.S. Park Police said in a statement Friday evening that it is aware of the lawsuit.

“At this time, we have been advised not to comment on any current or pending litigation,” park police said in the statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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