FAIRFAX, Va. — Two U.S. Park Police officers have been indicted on manslaughter charges in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed motorist who led officers on a stop-and-go chase after an accident.
The charges against officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard come after years of agitation by the family of Bijan Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, and some local and federal political figures who saw the officers’ conduct in the shooting as excessive.
Federal prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against the officers last year, saying their actions did not rise to the level of criminality.
Following that decision, the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office launched an investigation. The new top prosecutor, Steve Descano, was elected on a reform agenda and promised to hold police accountable for misconduct.
Vinyard and Amaya are also charged with reckless use of a firearm.
Ghaisar was fatally shot by the officers in November 2017 after a stop-and-go chase on the George Washington Parkway outside the nation’s capital in northern Virginia.
Dashcam video released by Fairfax County Police, who played a supporting role in the chase, shows a chase beginning on the parkway before turning into a residential neighbourhood. 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, five gunshots are heard. The car starts to drift into a ditch, and two more sets of two gunshots are heard.
The chase began after authorities say Ghaisar left the scene of an accident in which he had been rear-ended.
In court documents made public as part of a civil suit filed by Ghaisar’s family, Vinyard told FBI agents who interviewed him after the shooting that he and Amaya gave Ghaisar “chance after chance” to surrender peacefully before opening fire.
Matthew Barakat, The Associated Press