Ghaisar family ‘shocked and hurt’ over promotion of US Park Police chief

FILE — Bijan Ghaisar, 25, was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police in November 2017. He was unarmed. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The family of a man who was killed by U.S. Park Police officers is expressing outrage that the agency’s chief, Robert MacLean, will soon be elevated to a more prestigious federal government role.

Starting Sept. 16, MacLean will become director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security. He’s stepping down after 28 years with the U.S. Park Police Department.

“The family remains devastated and stunned at the way this government has treated them,” said Roy Austin, a lawyer who represents the family of Bijan Ghaisar.

Ghaisar, 25, was shot by two Park Police officers in November 2017 in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County, Virginia, following a police chase on the George Washington Parkway during which the officers said they repeatedly tried to pull Ghaisar over without success.

MacLean has faced scrutiny for not communicating with Ghaisar’s family and refusing to release any further details about why the officers opened fire.

“We have not heard anything of substance from chief MacLean,” Austin said. “He’s not done what one would hope a police chief would have done.”

In a statement, the Park Police did not directly address the family’s concerns, but did defend MacLean, calling him a “28-year veteran of the U.S. Park Police with a stellar record protecting our most symbolic monuments and memorials and the visitors to them.”

The FBI is leading the investigation of the Ghaisar case, and has not yet determined whether the shooting was justified or whether the officers will face charges.

“The family is shocked and hurt that the leader of the organization that killed their son is getting a promotion,” Austin said. “In any other situation, most people would be losing their job.”

The officers involved, who remain on administrative duty, were identified as Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard. Their names were released only as part of a wrongful-death lawsuit that was filed by Ghaisar’s family against the federal government.

In a previous interview with WTOP, Ghaisar’s mother Kelly said that law enforcement officials “don’t give us a timeline and they don’t give us answers. It’s total silence.”

Ghaisar’s sister, Negeen, described it as “torture.”

“It’s like being in purgatory,” said Negeen. “There’s been no accountability, and every single day you wake up and it’s like you’re reliving the same moment over and over again. You have no answers and no one seems to care.”

Nick Iannelli

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

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