ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Video of a 25-year-old accountant from McLean being shot to death by U.S. Park Police after a high-speed chase has been released by Fairfax County police.
***WARNING: The video in the media player is unedited. Some may find its content graphic in nature.***
Authorities said Bijan Ghaisar fled the scene of a crash in Alexandria the evening of Nov. 17. According to a four-page police report, a male Uber driver in a Toyota Corolla with a passenger in the backseat reported he was traveling southbound on the George Washington Parkway when he struck the rear of Ghaisar's green 2013 Jeep SUV.
For reasons unknown, the report said Ghaisar "stopped in the roadway abruptly" and "then left the scene."
The Uber driver told FOX 5 that Ghaisar did drive off immediately after the collision. He said Ghaisar suddenly slammed on his brakes without any traffic around, causing him to rear-end Ghaisar. The Uber driver said he and his passenger got Ghaisar's license plate tag and called police afterwards.
There were no injuries to the Uber driver or his passenger. He was given a ticket for failing to maintain proper control.
About 10 minutes later, Ghaisar was shot by two U.S. Park Police officers miles from the scene following a brief chase. His family had previously said he was shot three times in the head and was unarmed, but FOX 5 has since learned he was shot five times, including four times in the head and once in the wrist. Ghaisar later died on Nov. 27.
The video released by Fairfax County police is 4 minutes and 23 seconds long. Almost immediately it shows officers stopping Ghaisar in the middle of a road. An officer attempts to open the driver’s door, but Ghaisar drives off as the officer appears to hit the back window his firearm.
“When you have, after a minor fender-bender, two officers jumped out of their vehicle with their weapons drawn, try to open your door, point a gun at your head, his decision to leave wasn’t necessarily a bad decision in that instance,” Ghaisar's family's attorney Roy Austin told FOX 5.
Ghaisar is seen in the video leading police on a pursuit for an additional 2 minutes before stopping again. An officer attempts to open Ghaisar’s door but he drives off for a second time.
Ghaisar stops for a third time at the intersection of Alexandria Avenue and Fort Hunt Road about a minute later and police attempt to block his vehicle in with their patrol cruiser. Ghaisar appears to try to squeeze by the patrol cruiser and a stop sign when multiple shots are heard.
The officers appear to be standing outside their vehicle and on the driver’s side of Ghaisar’s vehicle, not in front o the vehicle, when the shots were fired. After the shots are heard, Ghaisar temporarily stops his vehicle. Video appears to show police attempting to open his driver door but Ghaisar starts to drive away again. Multiple shots being fired are heard again.
Ghaisar’s Jeep goes down a slight embankment and comes to a rest against a stop sign with its driver’s side tires in the air.
In total, nine shots were fired, with four striking Ghaisar in the left side of his head and one striking his wrist.
“I was stunned that these officers did this to this young man,” Austin said. The attorney said Ghaisar's family was hurt and upset after watching the video, and "they just couldn’t believe this is how their son died.”
"The video does not provide all 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,” Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said in part of a written statement Wednesday morning.
U.S. Park Police had remained tight-lipped about the details surrounding the shooting, releasing very limited details about the deadly incident. They have yet to release the name of the officers involved in the fatal shooting.
On Wednesday, U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLaean released a statement that said in part, "While respecting the integrity of the investigation, I also recognize the desire for more information and details surrounding the investigation and the death of 25-year-old, Bijan Ghaisar.”
The statement said MacLean met with Ghaisar's family in the days following the incident and "shared his commitment to a fair and impartial investigation."
FOX 5 reached out to U.S. Park Police about their pursuit policy and were told we’d have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to retain that information. FOX 5 officially filed that request and later received the documentation on Wednesday. Based on the description of the U.S. Park Police's pursuit policy obtained by FOX 5, their policy does not appear to support the pursuit of Ghaisar.
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The FBI later took over the investigation and Fairfax County police revealed one of their dashboard cameras captured the shooting. Fairfax County police were providing backup to U.S. Park Police.
Roessler said his officers did not fire any shots during the incident. Roessler stated during a press conference back in December that his department would release the video after the FBI finished interviewing every officer involved in the incident as to not interfere with the investigation.
Ghaisar worked with his father as an accountant in McLean after he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015 with a degree in accounting. The 25-year-old graduated from Langley High School in 2010.
Ghaisar's family released the following statement following the release of the video:
“This disturbing video shows the senseless killing of a young man at the hands of those charged with protecting public safety. 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. No one was even close to being in harm’s way until a pair of U.S. Park Police officers repeatedly shot Bijan at close range as he sat, unarmed, in his Jeep on a residential street. We don’t know why the U.S. Park Police officers shot Bijan multiple times, or whether those officers are still patrolling the area’s parkways. What we do know is that justice demands that those responsible for taking Bijan’s life answer for this illegal and unconstitutional killing. The family is grateful to Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler for all he has done to ensure the appropriate amount of transparency throughout this process.”