Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, have released dashcam footage of an officer-involved shooting in a bid for “transparency.”
The video, from the evening of November 17, 2017, shows a police chase that ends with US Park Police (USPP) officers firing nine shots into a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The driver, Bijan Ghaisar, 25, died 10 days later in a hospital.
The dashcam footage was not made public until this week, when Fairfax County Chief of Police Edwin C. Roessler Jr. released it. The video was captured by a Fairfax County police vehicle as the Fairfax officer provided backup to federal police during the chase.
The case has been turned over to the FBI.
“As a matter of transparency, to all in our community, especially the Ghaisar family, and as the administrative custodian of the video, I am releasing the in-car video of the US Park Police shooting,” Roessler said in a statement Wednesday. “The video does not provide all of the answers. However, we should all have confidence in the FBI’s investigation of this matter as I know it will be thorough, objective and professional.”
No Fairfax County officers discharged their weapons during the incident, Roessler said. His officers were lending assistance after they learned the USPP were pursuing a vehicle reportedly involved in a traffic accident in Alexandria, Virginia, according to Fairfax County police.
According to the collision report obtained by CNN, Ghaisar was rear-ended that evening while driving southbound on George Washington Memorial Parkway outside Washington, D.C. Occupants of the second vehicle told police that Ghaisar “stopped in the roadway abruptly” before driving away from the scene. The second car suffered damage to the front of the vehicle, the report says, and the driver of that car received a traffic citation.
In Virginia, it’s illegal to leave the scene of a traffic incident where there’s been injury, death, or damage to property.
Ghaisar was given medical treatment after the shooting, Roessler said in a news conference last month. The 25-year-old, a US citizen and the son of Iranian parents, later died in the same hospital he was born in, an attorney for the Ghaisar family told CNN.
“While respecting the integrity of the investigation, I also recognize the desire for more information and details surrounding the investigation and the death of the 25-year-old, Bijan Ghaisar,” said USPP Chief of Police Robert D. MacLean in a statement on Wednesday.
According to the statement, MacLean met with Ghaisar’s family in the days after the shooting and committed to “a fair and impartial investigation.”
The USPP have not released any information about the incident and haven’t returned CNN’s calls for comment.
It’s unknown if Ghaisar was armed. The names of the officers involved have not been released.
The USPP told the Washington Post that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
Video account of shooting
The video, about four-and-a-half minutes long, begins shortly before Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee passes the FCPD vehicle at a high speed, closely followed by US Park Police. During the chase, Ghaisar’s vehicle stops twice before USPP approach his vehicle with their weapons drawn. Each time, Ghaisar drives away and police give chase again.
At no point in the video do the officers appear to be in danger of being hit by Ghaisar’s vehicle.
Ghaisar’s Grand Cherokee stops a third time, and again, the USPP move towards the driver-side window, aiming their guns. When the car inches forward, five gunshots ring out. Four more gunshots are heard before the vehicle rolls into a ditch.
Ghaisar’s family has seen the video of the shooting, Roessler said in a statement Wednesday.
“This disturbing video shows the senseless killing of a young man at the hands of those charged with protecting public safety,” attorneys for the Ghaisar family said in a statement Wednesday. “Bijan Ghaisar was repeatedly threatened by over-aggressive and out-of-control law enforcement officers, after he drove away from a minor traffic incident in which he was the victim and in which there was little property damage and no known injuries.”
The family’s statement adds, “No one was even close to being in harm’s way” before the officers fired on Ghaisar. The statement also says Ghaisar was unarmed, although it’s unclear how the family knows that.
It’s not clear why Ghaisar fled police when they tried to pull him over, said Roy Austin, one of the Ghaisars’ attorneys, on Thursday.
“We honestly have no idea,” Austin said. “We don’t have an explanation.”