A special grand jury in Fairfax County has indicted two U.S. Park Police officers in the 2017 shooting death of a McLean man in Fort Hunt following a stop-and-go pursuit.
U.S. Park Police officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya were indicted on one count each of manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano said.
“Bijan Ghaisar was an individual that was involved in a minor traffic accident and was shot and killed by law enforcement minutes later," Descano said. "Like so many others in our community, I was deeply disturbed by the images we saw on that cruiser video. That’s why I made sure that we took a clear and critical look at this case and made sure we did the right thing."
On Nov. 17, 2017, the two officers followed Ghaisar’s Jeep down George Washington Parkway after he'd been rear-ended by another vehicle in Old Town Alexandria and left the scene.
Dash cam video released by the Fairfax County Police Department showed that Ghaisar stopped his Jeep twice, but drove away twice.
When Ghaisar stopped a third time in the Fort Hunt neighborhood of Fairfax County, the two officers approached his Jeep with guns drawn.
The video shows officers firing nine times as Ghaisar’s Jeep inched forward. Ghaisar, 25, was not armed. He died 10 days later at the hospital.
The shooting caused an outcry in the community after Fairfax County police released the cruiser dash cam video. But federal officials declined to charge the officers, saying the two did nothing criminally wrong.
Descano said he convened a special grand jury several months ago to investigate the case.
"I wish this could have been done in a faster fashion. However, there is no shortcut to justice," he said. "This is a very complex and nuanced case." He said prosecutors reviewed more than 11,000 pieces of documentary evidence, chased down additional evidence, and the conducted in-person interviews.
"Making this more difficult was the U.S. Department of Justice’s refusal to produce witnesses for the benefit of our grand jury and trial," Descano said. "Without our ability to call those witnesses it rendered their investigation and the valuable evidence they collected unusable at trial. To move this case forward we had to rely purely on evidence collected by the [Fairfax County Police Department.]
In a statement to the Associated Press, Ghaisar's family said their "heavy hearts a little lighter" following the indictments.
“Too many of the people who are sworn to protect and serve our communities commit heinous acts of violence and go unpunished. With these charges we are reminded that, at least here in Fairfax County, Officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard are not above the law," the statement said.