Family, feds reach $5M settlement of Park Police shooting
Apr 21, 2023, 2:30 PM
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — The family of a northern Virginia man fatally shot by U.S. Park Police officers has reached a $5 million settlement in its civil lawsuit against the government.
Two officers shot 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar of McLean in November 2017 after a stop-and-go chase on the George Washington Memorial Parkway outside the nation’s capital.
Ghaisar was unarmed, but the officers said they feared for their lives when Ghaisar’s car lurched forward after it had stopped and the officers stood outside the vehicle with weapons drawn.
The civil settlement comes after more than five years of legal wrangling and criticism of Park Police alleging excessive force and a lack of transparency.
Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute the officers, Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya, after a two-year FBI investigation. At that point, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano filed manslaughter charges against the officers in state court. That set off a tug-of-war between state and federal officials over who had jurisdiction to prosecute the case.
In October 2021, a federal judge tossed out the manslaughter charges brought by Descano’s office. The judge ruled that the officers were entitled to immunity and that their actions were proper under the circumstances.
Even though the criminal charges were tossed out, Ghaisar’s family continued to pursue a civil lawsuit alleging wrongful death.
The Ghaisar family said the officers violated their own policies by chasing Ghaisar, who was unarmed when officers opened fire.
The settlement, detailed Friday in a court filing in federal court in Alexandria, describes the agreement as a compromise. It says that Ghaisar’s parents, James and Kelly Ghaisar, will receive $3.75 million, and their lawyers will get $1.25 million.
The settlement still must be approved by a judge.
Dashcam video of the shooting shows the pursuit starting on the parkway, then continuing 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, the officers again approach with guns drawn, and Amaya stands in front of the driver’s door. When the car starts to move, Amaya opens fire. Seconds later, when the car begins moving again, both Amaya and Vinyard fire multiple shots.