Bijan Gissar’s criminal case ended by Virginia Attorney General Jason Millais, refused to federal prosecution

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Virginia Attorney General Jason Millais (right) on Friday dropped the state’s federal appeal in a murder case against two U.S. Park Police officers, effectively ending any attempted criminal prosecution of the officers who shot unarmed motorist Bijan Gissar in the Fairfax neighborhood in 2017. .

Gissar, 25, drove U.S. Park Police officers Lucas Vineyard, 40, and Alejandro Amaya, 42, in a chase down George Washington Memorial Road on the night of November 17, 2017, stopping at least twice and then pulling away as Amaya approached his Jeep Grand Cherokee His weapon was drawn. At the third stop, a video of the accident appears, Vineyard pulled his police car from Park in front of Gissar’s jeep, but when Gissar began to advance again, Amaya and then Vineyard fired, each firing five times at Gissar’s car.

The case was investigated by the FBI, because the Park police are federal officers, and in 2019 the Justice Department refused to bring federal civil rights charges against the officers. In 2020, Fairfax Commonwealth attorney Steve Decano (D) obtained manslaughter indictments against both officers, and requested the assistance of Virginia Attorney General Mark Hering (D) to prosecute the case in federal court, where the officers had the right to hear the case. .

Last year, US District Court Chief Justice Claude Hilton ruled that Vineyard and Amaya had acted reasonably in Gissar’s murder, and ordered the murder charges to be dropped. Herring and Descano resumed.

Judge dismisses criminal charges against Park Police officers in Bijan Gissar’s murder

But then Hering lost his bid for re-election in November and was replaced by Miyares. In January, an attorney for Hearing’s employees filed a memo in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, arguing that the case should be reinstated. When Mearis took office, Fairfax prosecutors and the Gissar family said his attorneys refused to speak with them. Miyares filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and terminate the case on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, Millais said he and his team reviewed the evidence and “we agree with the findings of a comprehensive review by the Department of Justice, and the analysis of the United States District Court. In light of all the life-or-death circumstances facing them, Officers Amaya and Vineyard acted reasonably in their use of force, and did no further than was necessary and appropriate for the performance of their statutory duties as Federal officers. I have therefore decided to ask the Fourth Circuit to dismiss the Commonwealth’s appeal. I will not perpetuate the continuing pursuit of two officers who were doing what they were trained to do under extremely difficult circumstances.”

A video released by the Fairfax County Police in January 2018 shows US Park Police chasing and shooting Bijan Gissar’s car in 2017 (Video: Fairfax County Police Department)

Amaya and Vineyard were on administrative duties until their arrest in 2020, and have been on paid administrative leave ever since. Park Police declined to provide an update on their condition on Friday. Their lawyers said they wanted to withhold comment pending a ruling from the Appeals Court on the attorney general’s request.

“By overriding the grand jury’s decision, AG Millais substituted his political calculations for the judgment of the citizens of Fairfax County who heard the evidence and decided to indict these two officers for the murder of Bijan Gissar,” said Thomas J. Connolly, the attorney for Al Gissar. “It is a tragedy that justice in this commonwealth is determined not by evidence but by the political whims of a novice AG.”

“I’m so sad for the family,” Descano said. “If you think about what they went through, and have the attorney general, for purely political reasons, not allow the case to get to the Fourth Circuit and get a ruling, that’s a shame.” Descano, who fought with Millais over Fairfax County’s handling of criminal cases Since the new attorney general took office, he added, “For the man who yells at the victims, to not be able to do it? How are the victims cared for? I don’t know.”

Despite the conclusion of the state’s trial, Descano said he hopes the Biden Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland will reconsider the department’s 2019 ruling and launch a federal case against the officers. Last May, Descano and Hering asked Garland to reconsider the case and allow FBI agents to cooperate with the prosecution, which the previous administration blocked. Herring allowed the FBI to get involved, but Descano said Justice Department officials wanted to wait and see what happened with prosecutors, who were hanging out in front of Hilton.

The Gissars’ civil lawsuit against the Park Police is still pending. He was on the verge of trial in the fall of 2020 when Descano received criminal indictments. Hilton then suspended the case.

An internal investigation into Vineyard and Amaya may now begin, which could result in disciplinary action or dismissal. Park police said they were waiting for the criminal case to be resolved to start the internal affairs case.

Gissar was an accountant born and raised in Northern Virginia, graduated from Langley High School and Virginia Commonwealth University, and worked for his father’s firm in McLean. He was driving south on George Washington Park Road near Alexandria, apparently smoking marijuana, according to court records, when he suddenly stopped in front of a Toyota Corolla driven by Atef Rahman as an Uber driver. The two cars collided, and Corolla Rahman was damaged, but Rahman said Gissar never looked at him and drove off. Police records showed that his passenger called 911 to report a hit-and-run accident.

Family and friends puzzled: How did a fun-loving, gun-averse, sports-mad Buddhist end up shot by the police?

Vineyard and Amaya did not speak publicly about the events of that night. But they said through their attorneys that they had spotted a Gissar Grand Cherokee, they drove off to him on Washington Street and yelled at him to stop the car. Gissar did not. Instead, he drove farther south on Parkway Road in Fairfax County.

Vineyard turned on its lights and sirens as Amaya briefed Park Police and Fairfax Police dispatchers. Fairfax Lieutenant Dan John was in the area and joined the chase by taping the camera inside the car.

Gohn’s video shows that Gissar stopped in the right lane of the Parkway, then drove off while Amaya ran into Gissar’s jeep with his rifle drawn. Several minutes later, Gissar drove off the park road into a grassy area, then sped off again when Amaya approached him.

Video clip shows Park Police fired nine shots at Bijan Gissar’s jeep at close range, killing him

Gissar stopped again at the intersection of Alexandria Street and Fort Hunt Road. Vineyard parked perpendicular to Gissar’s jeep, and Amaya pulled out from the passenger side with his pistol. When Gissar started to advance, Amaya started shooting. Vineyard ran from behind the Park Police car and also started shooting.

After the first set of shots, Amaya moved to the front of the jeep. I stepped forward two more times, and Vineyard shot both times. According to Vineyard’s lawyer, he feared for Amaya’s life and his shots were justified. Amaya’s lawyers said he also feared for his life, though video apparently shows Gissar’s jeep rolling away from officers in an attempt to maneuver around a Park Police car.

Gissar was shot four times in the head and died 10 days later.

The FBI investigation ended when the Justice Department announced in November 2019 that there would be no federal charges, saying: “The Department is unable to refute the allegation of self-defense or the defense of others by the officers.” The Justice Department said prosecutors would have to prove that the officers acted “deliberately” “with the malicious purpose of ignoring the law.”

US Park Police officers will not face federal charges in the shooting of Bijan Gissar

Descano set up a special grand jury in the summer of 2020, and in October secured indictments accusing Vineyard and Amaya of manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm. The two officers were briefly booked into Fairfax Jail and released on bail.

The officers quickly moved to hear the case in federal court, a proposal that Hilton agreed to. The officers argued that the “sovereignty clause” of the US Constitution, which states that states must comply with federal law, granted them immunity. Case law says that if federal officers act in their official capacity, and do only what is “necessary and appropriate,” they are immune to state prosecution.

A hearing is scheduled for August 2021 on whether the officers’ actions were necessary and correct. But the Virginia attorney general’s office chose instead not to present evidence, saying there was no dispute about the facts. Hilton then ruled in October that the officers acted correctly. Virginia appealed, but Millais withdrew that appeal on Friday.

Mayaris’ statement added: “The events of November 17, 2017 were undoubtedly tragic. I am saddened by what happened and the pain it caused. But police persecution was the wrong response.”

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