The Justice Department announced it will not reopen the investigation into the death of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, who was gunned down by two U.S. Park Police Officer in Fairfax County in 2017.
The department released a statement Friday saying there is 'insufficient evidence to establish a willful violation,' reaffirming a 2019 decision made by under the office of then-Attorney General William P. Barr. Ghaisar’s family asked the DOJ to reconsider opening the case, after new leadership took over the department under the Biden Administration.
In its explanation for the decision, the DOJ wrote that, "To prevail under the federal civil rights statute, the Justice Department must prove that an officer, acting under color of law, willfully used unreasonable force. To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."
This latest decision comes after involuntary manslaughter charges against the officers involved, Lucas Vinyard, 40, and Alejandro Amaya, 42, were dismissed last year. In the decision, a U.S. District Court ruled the officers’ conduct was "necessary and proper" and "in accordance with federal law."
Lucas Vinyard, left, and Alejandro Amaya, right.
Ghaisar was fatally shot by the officers following a chase on the George Washington Parkway, outside the nation's capital in northern Virginia, after a fender bender in which Ghaisar's car was rear-ended.
Dashcam video released by Fairfax County Police, who played a supporting role in the chase, shows the chase beginning on the parkway before turning into a residential neighborhood. It shows the car driven by Ghaisar stopping twice during the chase, and officers approaching the car with guns drawn. In both cases, Ghaisar drives off.
At the third and final stop, officers with guns drawn approach the car at the driver-side door. When the car starts to move again, gunshots are heard. The car starts to drift into a ditch, and two more sets of two gunshots are heard.
The DOJ's decision to not reopen the Ghaisar case puts a definitive end to the criminal prosecution of officers Vinyard and Amaya.