WASHINGTON - Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., expressed their displeasure after the chief of the U.S. Park Police canceled their scheduled meeting to discuss the deadly police-involved shooting of a Northern Virginia man last November.
According to the lawmakers, Chief Robert MacLean canceled the meeting at the last minute because he believed it would be a violation of anti-lobbying laws, a reason that was "not satisfactory" to both Beyer and Norton.
Bijan Ghaisar was shot by Park Police officers on Nov. 17 following a police pursuit after he refused to stop for police. A police report says the 25-year-old had left the scene of a minor traffic accident in which his Jeep was hit from behind by an Uber driver prior to the police chase.
The McLean man was driving down the George Washington Parkway in Fairfax County when the officers tried to stop him three different times before U.S. Park Police fired a total nine shots, hitting Ghaisar five times. Four of those shots struck Ghaisar in the left side of his head and he was hit in his wrist once. Ghaisar's family said he was unarmed.
Beyer said U.S. Park Police actually put Ghaisar under arrest even though he was comatose and they did not let his family in to see him for several hours following the incident.
Ghaisar would later pass away on Nov. 27.
"I would love to know what the Park Police's perspective on what those two men were thinking about because you have an accident that Bijan Ghaisar didn't cause, that had no physical damage to his car," Beyer said. "It looked like a young man running in terror. Every time he stops, somebody with guns is at his window. So why did they chase him? Why did they shoot? What danger did he present to them or to the community?"
Ghaisar's family released a statement regarding the cancellation of Tuesday's scheduled meeting:
What happened to our Bijan should not happen in America. We will not let his death at the hands of the U.S. Park Police be in vain, which is why we are committed to ensuring proper law enforcement equipment, training and policies to prevent something like this from happening to other families.
We were disappointed, though not surprised, to learn that Park Police abruptly backed out of a meeting today with Representatives Don Beyer and Eleanor Holmes Norton as they seek answers about Bijan's case and smart reforms for federal law enforcement. From the very beginning, it has been our experience that the Park Police have tried to avoid transparency and accountability about what happened when they killed our son and brother almost three months ago - what they did today was more of the same.
We are grateful for the efforts and support of Reps. Beyer and Holmes Norton."
Fairfax County police assisted U.S. Park Police at the scene on the night of the shooting. The police department released dash camera video that captured the fatal shooting.
Del. Norton is drafting legislation to require uniformed federal police officers, including U.S. Park Police officers, to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in marked vehicles. Norton said she wants Park Police to have body cameras simply because they have the power to make arrests in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
"When you see the excuse, it is just like a made-up excuse about the Hatch Act and about 'I'm sorry, we can't meet with members of Congress,'" said Norton. "That is almost insult to members of Congress, particularly since we indicated what we wanted to meet about - a pending bill on body cameras."
The two lawmakers were so upset with Chief MacLean that they quickly fired off a letter telling him his take on the law is erroneous. They will be asking him for another meeting.
Beyer said he was frustrated by the speed of this investigation and has spoken to the assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office about it. He said unless there is some security reason, the names of the two officers involved in the shooting should be released.