The 25-year-old was supposed to select his father up from his dwelling in McLean, Virginia, at 8 p.m., James remembers. However Bijan by no means confirmed, and James’ calls and textual content messages to his son went unanswered.
Unbeknownst to James, Bijan had been shot a number of occasions by two US Park Cops after he left the scene of a fender bender and repeatedly drove away as officers tried to tug him over. Bijan was unarmed.
He died 10 days later.
“I get up with a heavy coronary heart within the morning, asking myself, ‘Why am I right here?'” James instructed CNN. “Why could not I alternate my place with him? He can be right here, and I might be gone as an alternative.”
James says he can’t take into consideration his son with out crying. On daily basis he wears a black shirt and a pin with an image of Bijan.
”I really miss him to my core,” James stated. “I solely pray that sooner or later, sometime, in a distinct world, possibly we meet once more.”
Three years, no justice
The Ghaisars have spent three years searching for justice for Bijan. They need to know why he was shot lifeless by the Park Police, a unit of the Nationwide Park Service, which has jurisdiction in all federal parks.
They’ve held candlelit vigils, rallies and protests. They’ve gained allies in Congress. However to today, the household says, no federal official has given them an evidence.
An legal professional for Vinyard declined to remark when reached by CNN. CNN has additionally reached out to an legal professional for Amaya for remark.
“On a comparatively uneventful evening in 2017, Bijan was struck by one other automotive, left the scene, and thereafter failed to tug over for US Park Police — none of that ought to have led to his loss of life,” Descano stated.
“I want this might have been accomplished in a quicker trend. Nonetheless, there isn’t a shortcut to justice,” Descano stated, calling the case “very complicated and nuanced.” His workplace reviewed 11,000 paperwork and performed interviews over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ghaisars have filed a civil lawsuit in opposition to the federal authorities, claiming wrongful loss of life and the intentional infliction of emotional misery. The US authorities has denied legal responsibility for the capturing, arguing in court docket paperwork that “as unhappy as this case is,” Ghaisar was not shot till “he drove his automobile at Officer Alejandro Amaya.”
The civil trial was scheduled to start on November 16, however on October 30 a federal decide issued a keep within the case because of the prison case in opposition to the officers in Fairfax County.
CNN authorized analyst Joey Jackson agreed, asking, “If this had been so clear-cut, why the stonewalling by the federal authorities for such an elongated time frame?”
“You need to be totally clear with the household,” he stated. Whereas he understood authorities would possibly withhold some data to guard an investigation, telling the household nothing “raises suspicion” and isn’t “humane or actually applicable.”
“Simply be clear,” he stated. “Give your narrative.”
CNN reached out to the Justice Division to touch upon elements of the case contained on this story and did not obtain a response.
The American dream
James Ghaisar arrived in America from Iran 43 years in the past and earned two grasp’s levels. He and his spouse, Kelly, who additionally emigrated from Iran, grew to become US residents. James began an accounting agency in McLean, and he and his spouse spent 4 a long time constructing a life for Bijan and his older sister, Negeen.
He was additionally kindhearted and compassionate. He mediated conflicts between his fraternity brothers at Virginia Commonwealth College, and so they as soon as dubbed him “Brother of the 12 months,” his sister Negeen instructed CNN.
And like the remainder of his household, he was strongly against violence, James says. Bijan was vocal about his assist for gun management, and he spoke out on Fb after the Aurora, Colorado, theater capturing in 2012, in accordance with the household’s civil grievance.
Bijan graduated from VCU with a level in accounting and spent the final two years of his life working for his father.
“In fact, the dream was that sooner or later I might hand him the important thing, and I might step again,” James stated. “However sadly, that dream died on November 17. And I died with him.”
On November 17, 2017, round 7:30 p.m., Bijan was driving south on the George Washington Memorial Parkway when he “abruptly” stopped within the street and was rear-ended by one other driver, in accordance with an Inside Division incident report.
Bijan drove away. The second driver was cited for failure to take care of correct management, the report says, noting there was injury to the entrance of the second automobile, however there have been no identified accidents. It is unlawful in Virginia to depart the scene of an accident that ends in property injury.
Based on court docket paperwork detailing the Park Cops’ accounts of the capturing supplied to the FBI, Amaya and Vinyard positioned Bijan’s automobile and started a pursuit, with Vinyard driving and Amaya within the passenger’s seat. Vinyard would later say that on the time they didn’t know Bijan had been driving the automobile that was rear-ended, solely that one had left the scene of the accident.
USPP don’t use bodycams or in-vehicle sprint cams. However a lot of the pursuit was filmed by the dashcam of a Fairfax County police officer who joined the pursuit to assist USPP.
That footage reveals Bijan cease thrice throughout the pursuit. The primary time, he pulls into the far-right lane and stops. The USPP SUV pulls up alongside his Jeep Grand Cherokee and an officer will get out on the passenger facet, his weapon drawn and geared toward Bijan.
The officer, standing on the facet of the automobile, makes an attempt to open the driving force’s door, however Bijan drives away. Because the Jeep pulls off, the officer seems to strike the rear driver’s facet window.
The Fairfax County officer pulls forward and follows Bijan till the USPP catch up.
An identical scene performs out a second time after Bijan turns off the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the USPP SUV pulls in entrance of him. He stops and is once more approached by the officers — no less than one in every of whom has their gun drawn — earlier than driving across the officers.
The chase briefly continues down residential streets earlier than Bijan involves a 3rd and remaining cease at an intersection, the place the USPP SUV pulls in entrance of his Jeep.
The officer within the passenger seat will get out and stands on the driving force’s facet of Bijan’s automobile along with his gun geared toward him. Bijan’s Jeep inches ahead and to the best, away from the officer.
5 gunshots ring out. After a short pause, the Jeep rolls ahead once more.
Two extra gunshots. One other pause, and the Jeep rolls, adopted by two further gunshots.
Ghaisar’s Jeep is seen rolling right into a roadside ditch, with the again wheel on the driving force’s facet aloft.
Authorities supplied medical remedy on the scene, and Bijan was quickly taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church.
Vinyard would later inform the FBI they gave Bijan “likelihood after likelihood to cease,” in accordance with court docket paperwork filed by the federal authorities. The officers believed his driving offered a hazard to different motorists, and Vinyard feared Amaya, closest to Ghaisar’s Jeep, was at risk of being hit because it moved ahead on the third cease.
The video reveals the officers standing to the facet of Ghaisar’s automobile because it strikes ahead.
Nonetheless, one skilled witness for the federal government within the civil lawsuit who analyzed the case believed Vinyard’s concern to be affordable and concluded the officers’ use of pressure was justified.
The officers, the skilled witness stated, needed to make split-second selections, and any analysis of whether or not the officers had been at risk based mostly on the pace and turning radius of Ghaisar’s Jeep got here with the good thing about hindsight.
Jackson — who stated he understands police need to make split-second selections and should not be harm within the line of responsibility — does not suppose that is an efficient protection.
The officers could try and justify their actions as a result of a automotive could possibly be thought-about a lethal weapon, Jackson stated. “However it’s a must to have a look at the place the officers had been standing relative to the place the automotive was.”
“To make the argument the automotive might have killed me if you’re not within the automotive’s path,” he stated, “I believe that is fairly a stretch.”
Based on court docket filings from the US authorities, a toxicology report stated THC — the psychoactive compound in marijuana — was present in Bijan’s system. A bag of marijuana and a pipe had been additionally discovered within the Jeep, the filings say.
However Roy Austin, an legal professional for the Ghaisar household, has condemned these filings, calling them improper and an try and assassinate Bijan’s character.
“Whether or not or not Bijan had marijuana in his automotive is irrelevant. The officers by no means knew this truth, so it had nothing to do with why they had been attempting to cease him,” Austin stated. “That is not a foundation to make use of extreme pressure.”
The Fairfax County police officer instructed the FBI the chase was not a high-speed pursuit and Bijan wasn’t driving in an alarming method, in accordance with the court docket paperwork.
The Ghaisars discovered Bijan had been shot round 1 a.m., when two USPP detectives knocked on their door and confirmed them an image of a tattoo on Bijan’s torso — a love poem by the thirteenth century Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi written in Farsi. Their son had been in a “shootout,” the detectives stated, in accordance with the household, and he was within the hospital.
Bijan, who was in a coma, was guarded always by USPP, who in the end restricted visitation to at least one member of the family for quarter-hour every hour, in accordance with the household’s lawsuit. They weren’t allowed to the touch Bijan, the household says, and Park Police referred to him as “proof” and stated he was “underneath arrest.”
Based on the household, at one level, a chaplain needed to hope for Bijan, however USPP officers stated she couldn’t contact him as a result of he was Muslim — he was not — and couldn’t be touched by girls.
CNN has reached out to the US Park Police for remark.
After three days, the investigation was turned over to the FBI, who lessened the restrictions on visiting and who James stated had been “far more human.”
Nonetheless, nobody supplied an evidence for what led to the capturing, the household says.
On November 27, 2017, the household determined to take away Bijan from life assist. He died 10 hours later.
A household requires change
In saying prison expenses, Commonwealth’s Lawyer Descano stated he anticipated the officers would try and have the case moved to federal court docket and for the US to aim to have the case dismissed underneath the supremacy clause of the US Structure, which says federal legislation takes priority over state legal guidelines.
Following the prison expenses, a US district court docket decide granted the US authorities a keep within the civil case, with a standing listening to scheduled for March 2021.
Each the Ghaisars and the federal authorities had additionally requested the decide to enter abstract judgment — to make a ruling resolving the case of their favor and not using a trial.
The lawsuit seeks $25 million the household says might be put towards the Bijan Ghaisar Basis, which goals to assist victims of police brutality. Since their son’s loss of life, the Ghaisars have additionally known as for the USPP to implement physique cams and dashcams.
Regardless, James Ghaisar says prison expenses had been in the end what he needed to see.
“As a result of a civil settlement of cash, although we had been going to make use of the fund in a charitable means, will not be an actual reply to me as a result of justice wouldn’t be served for Bijan. Bijan’s life has been misplaced.”
‘I hope we will treatment this wound’
Bijan Ghaisar’s case has not attracted the identical consideration because the latest police killings of Black victims like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. However this summer time, amid protests in opposition to police brutality nationwide, James says he and Kelly joined demonstrations, too.
“I used to be additionally in a spot to know how deep this wound is, and sadly it’s the historical past of this nation,” he stated. “I am hoping that Black Lives Matter will not be taken calmly. I hope we will treatment this wound.”
Whereas his son was not Black, James believes racial prejudice performed a job in the best way Bijan and the household had been handled by US Park Police on the hospital.
Austin, the household’s legal professional, agrees, pointing partly to Bijan’s self-importance plate, which learn “Bijan.”
“If they didn’t consider Bijan was not directly overseas, both from his self-importance plates or what they really noticed, they might not have shot and killed him,” he stated. Austin believes the household’s remedy on the hospital was additionally an indicator of racial bias, pointing to the USPP officers’ assumption that Bijan was Muslim.
James and his household all the time felt fortunate to be part of America, he says, and offering a life in America for his son and daughter was the American dream. However that is been taken away, he says.
“The best way I’ve been handled, the best way my household has been handled, that is no completely different than Russia,” he stated. “That is no completely different than any dictatorship we’ve got skilled.”
In James’ workplace hangs an image of Nelson Mandela, who he admires for his capability to forgive, one thing James aspires to. He’s prepared to forgive anybody of any crime, he says. However with out anybody taking duty for his son’s loss of life, he struggles.
“I do not discover myself ready to forgive them,” he stated. “You need some acknowledgment, no less than any person to acknowledge, that one thing went unsuitable right here.”