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Video shows Park Police fired nine shots into Bijan Ghaisar’s Jeep at close range, killing him

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Two U.S. Park Police officers stood within close range of Bijan Ghaisar as he sat behind the wheel of his stopped Jeep Grand Cherokee, then fired nine shots into his vehicle as it slowly veered into a ditch away from the officers, a video recording of the Nov. 17 incident released Wednesday shows.

The video also captures two earlier encounters in which Ghaisar pulls to the side of the road, the two Park Police officers run to his car and one points a gun directly at Ghaisar, and then Ghaisar drives away. But in the moments before he was repeatedly shot by both officers, there does not appear to be any interaction with or provocation by Ghaisar, whose window remained closed, though his Jeep begins to move forward after stopping, sparking the first set of five shots. When the Jeep drifts forward again, the officers fire two more times at close range. When it drifts again, the officers fire a final two shots, the video shows.

Ghaisar’s lawyers said medical records now show he was shot four times in the head, not three as previously reported, and once in the wrist. The lawyers said he was unarmed, and the video released Wednesday did not indicate that he wielded a weapon. He died ten days later.

Bijan Ghaisar in April 2015. (Sima Marvastian)

The incident was recorded by a Fairfax County police officer who followed the Park Police officers from the George Washington Memorial Parkway into the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County. The Park Police have not identified the officers or explained why they shot Ghaisar, and their faces have been blurred in the video. They remain on administrative leave, Park Police Sgt. James Dingeldein said.

The FBI is investigating the shooting but has refused to release any information about the case. So Fairfax police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. took the step of releasing the video publicly Wednesday, after pushing federal authorities to let the Ghaisar family watch it, which they did on Sunday. Roessler said in Decemberthat he had provided the video to the FBI, but that they should release it as soon as possible, in the interests of transparency and aiding the victim’s family, who live in McLean, Va.

 

“This disturbing video shows the senseless killing of a young man at the hands of those charged with protecting public safety,” family attorneys Roy L. Austin Jr. and Thomas Connolly said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

The incident began with a fender-bender in Alexandria City which apparently happened at about 7:27 p.m. on Nov. 17, not 7:30 p.m. as the Park Police reported, according to Arlington communications officials who received the first 911 call. Arlington declined to release a recording of the call, and its call-takers likely forwarded it to the Park Police, who have jurisdiction over the George Washington parkway.

The rear-end collision happened on the southbound parkway south of Marina Drive, according to a Park Police crash report obtained by The Post. A male Uber driver with a female passenger reported that they were driving behind Ghaisar’s green Grand Cherokee when it suddenly stopped in the left lane, and the Uber driver’s Toyota Corolla struck the rear of the Cherokee, the report stated. The driver told Fox 5’s Paul Wagner that Ghaisar made no eye contact or gestures before driving off.

A lookout was broadcast for Ghaisar’s Jeep, which had “BIJAN” as its license plate, Park Police said in November. The Jeep was then spotted on the Fairfax County stretch of the parkway south of Alexandria, and the two-man Park Police patrol car began following it with lights and siren on, according to radio transmissions by one of the officers captured by the online service Broadcastify.


Bijan Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee rests in a ditch after he was shot by two U.S. Park Police officers while sitting behind the wheel on Nov. 17. (Freddy Wheeler/ABC 7)

The video begins as the pursuit zips past a Fairfax County officer who is facing the parkway at the Tulane Drive exit, and the Fairfax officer radioed that he was joining in at 7:38 p.m. Seconds later, Ghaisar’s Jeep pulls over. The marked Park Police patrol car pulls alongside the Jeep, and two Park Police officers leap from the car and run to the Jeep with their guns drawn, the video shows. One points his gun directly at Ghaisar’s head, the video shows.

In Virginia, leaving the scene of a traffic accident, regardless of who is at fault, is a Class 5 felony if there are injuries or property damage of more than $1,000. Police involved in “felony traffic stops” often are trained to approach such cars with their weapons drawn.

But Ghaisar drives off. One of the officers slams his gun into the left rear passenger window, the video shows, seemingly in frustration. The Fairfax officer pulls out to follow Ghaisar’s Jeep, but the Park Police car soon passes the Fairfax officer and pulls in behind Ghaisar again.

At 7:40 p.m., according to the video’s time stamp, Ghaisar pulls off the parkway at the West Boulevard Drive exit on to a grassy spot. The Park Police park slightly in front of Ghaisar’s Jeep, run to his window with their guns drawn, and again Ghaisar drives off. No one knows why Ghaisar, who had no criminal record and only minor traffic tickets, would elude the police twice.


The exit to West Boulevard Drive from southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway, at the rear of this picture. A police video shows that Bijan Ghaisar pulled off the parkway into the grassy area in the left of this picture, then fled when officers approached on Nov. 17, 2017. (Tom Jackman/The Washington Post)

Ghaisar drove from West Boulevard Drive a short distance to Alexandria Avenue, then headed toward Fort Hunt Drive with the Park Police and Fairfax cars behind him. At the intersection with Fort Hunt, he stopped at the stop sign, in his lane. The video shows the Park Police car pull completely in front of him to block him from driving off.

As the two officers emerge from in front of Ghaisar’s Jeep, the Fairfax police video shows the Jeep start to roll slightly forward to the right. One shot is heard, then four more shots in rapid succession. Neither officer is in front of the Jeep in the video.

The Jeep begins to drift again, and two more shots are fired. The Jeep stops. The officers move closer, and the Jeep again begins rolling toward the ditch on the side of Alexandria Avenue, where there is no curb or sidewalk, as if Ghaisar’s foot is off the brake. The officers fire two more shots at close range, the video shows. The Jeep continues toward the ditch, and pitches slightly to its side onto the stop sign.

The tape is then stopped, though there is likely additional footage of other officers arriving and then paramedics to treat Ghaisar. An ambulance from Alexandria arrived 12 minutes after the shooting, Fairfax fire and rescue records show.

The Virginia medical examiner’s office declined to release a cause and manner of Ghaisar’s death. A spokeswoman said that the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington had made a written request to withhold the release of the information because of a pending investigation. The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington is overseeing the investigation, after the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria was recused from the case, along with the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

The Park Police did not immediately comment on the video. The department also has refused to release copies of its policies on pursuing vehicles and use of force, though Dingeldein said the department was planning to do so.

The Ghaisar family is planning a protest outside the Department of Interior offices in Washington on Friday at 6 p.m., pushing for answers and justice for their son.

Roessler said he released the tape “As a matter of transparency to all in our community, especially the Ghaisar family.” He said in a statement that “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.”

“No one was even close to being in harm’s way,” said Austin and Connolly, the Ghaisar family’s attorneys, “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 lawyers added that, “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.”

More on the death of Bijan Ghaisar:

Nov. 18: Man shot by US Park Police in critical condition

Nov. 28: Man shot by U.S. Park Police dies, was unarmed, family says

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WATCH: Copwatch | Gang Unit Vehicle Stop Foot Bail | Tossed Gun | Man Tasered

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San Diego Copwatch April 10, 2018

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POLICE claim Man said ‘shoot me’ twice before he was shot to death by police, Audio Experts Heard Different

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Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.

 

Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.

“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”

When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.

Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.

“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”

Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.

Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.

“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”

Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.

The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.

Both women on Monday night.

“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.

“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”

Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”

Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.

“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”

Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016

Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Freedom of Speech Everywhere except a Courthouse so Says the US Attorney General

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How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

Gary Gileno

Gary Gileno is shown outside the federal courthouse on Friday before his trial. Gileno was fighting a $280 citation for failing to comply with orders while trying to bring a video camera into a L.A. County Sheriff oversight meeting in 2017. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

 

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.

“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”

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