By Kelly MacConomy
One year ago today Bijan lost his life.
One year has passed and still there is no answer to the question, Why?
On the evening of November 27, 2017, 25-year-old Bijan C. Ghaisar was involved in a minor fender bender on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The initial traffic stop and subsequent chase resulted ultimately in the death of the young man when Park Police fired nine shots into the vehicle, mortally wounding the unarmed Bijan who tragically passed away 10 days later- in the very place he was born, INOVA Fairfax.
Bijan was rear ended at Slater’s Lane in north Alexandria by an Uber driver who notified the police of the accident. Bijan travelled through Old Town on Washington Street, then back onto the Parkway where he was first stopped by Park Police.
Video of the police chase provided by the Fairfax County Police Department, which assisted in the pursuit, shows Bijan proceeding south down the GW Parkway in the passing lane-in no way erratically. After having been stopped and blocked by a Park Police cruiser, Bijan leaves the scene, pulling out to the right evasively upon the officer’s approach on foot.
The chase proceeds down the Parkway past the Stone Bridge, making a right turn onto the West Boulevard exit where Bijan obeyed the stop sign. At this point the police attempt to block the vehicle. Once again Bijan dodges the approaching officer and drives to Alexandria Avenue where he makes a rolling stop in a left turn before heading west toward Fort Hunt Road.
At the intersection of Fort Hunt Road Bijan once more makes a full stop at which point he is precluded from moving or making the right turn by a police vehicle. He is approached by officers on foot who fire point blank range into the driver’s window from about three feet. The car rolls forward a little likely due to the incline. They fire again.
The vehicle moves haltingly once more as if wounded Bijan’s foot is on and off the brake. Two officers fire again into the car whereupon the car rolls forward, tilts toward the ditch and is precluded from tipping over by the stop sign post where it rests.
Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell, who resides with his family two blocks away from the scene, has been a tireless voice on point, advocating for explanations from the US Park Police and the FBI, who assumed the investigation into the shooting.
Despite completing the investigation the FBI has not released its findings or conclusions. The officers involved in the shooting have not been officially identified.
This morning, Bijan’s parents Kelly and James Ghaisar, family members, friends and supporters held a peaceful protest outside the Department of Justice seeking a resolution to the delay. On November 18, a candlelight vigil was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Senator Surovell addressed the crowd assembled in remembrance, desperate to understand the inexplicable events of last year. The Senator joined fellow speakers Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity and NAACP Vice President Sean Perryman in a call for justice.
A candlelight vigil in Alexandria was also held November 8 at the intersection of Alexandria Avenue and Fort Hunt Road, where for a year flowers and photographs have been placed demarcating the place where Bijan’s life ended. The property owner at that corner has allowed a large sign to be placed asking “Why?”
Neighbors, supporters, activists as well as Congressman Don Beyer, Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, and Fairfax-Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck assembled at the invitation of Senator Surovell to protest the deafening silence of the US Park Police, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice.
“We Are Bijan” has become a national cause célèbre:
“We want names.
We want justice.
We are Bijan.”
The Ghaisar family seeks only the truth. Their $25 million lawsuit isn’t about the money. Any settlement or court awards will be used to create a foundation to assist victims of senseless law enforcement shootings. Senator Surovell, Congressman Beyer, Senator Ebbin and Supervisors Herrity and Storck are determined to continue their advocacy for Bijan. With their help there will be answers, closure for the Ghaisars, and justice for all.