Washington, DC -- Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Don Beyer (D-VA) announced that they received a response this week from the National Park Service (NPS) to their November 2019 letter to the United States Park Police (USPP) asking for an update on the investigation into the 2017 killing of Bijan Ghaisar, who was unarmed, by USPP officers.
In last November’s letter, Wexton, Norton, and Beyer asked for an update on the status of the officers involved in the 2017 shooting, Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard. Ghaisar was fatally shot by these officers while he was in his car in Fairfax County, Virginia in November 2017. Video of the shooting was made available only because of dashboard footage from the Fairfax County Police Department.
NPS’s response says the two officers “were placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident.” The letter continues, “As to the timing and scope of an internal investigation, the USPP does not typically comment on the substance or specific aspects of such reviews before they are complete. We can confirm that the Department has begun evaluating next steps in the context of pending cases and possible criminal action by the Fairfax County Prosecutor’s Office."
"In a truly brazen disregard for transparency and accountability, Park Police leadership took eight months to answer none of our questions,” said Wexton. “It’s unacceptable that two and a half years since Bijan’s death, his family still doesn’t have answers. The Ghaisars deserve justice, Bijan deserves justice – but it’s become abundantly clear that no justice will come from the Park Police. These stalling tactics will not deter us from pressing for the truth. There will be justice for Bijan."
"This letter, which comes two and a half years after Ghaisar’s tragic death and eight months after we initially wrote the Park Police, is entirely unacceptable,” Norton said. “For far too long, the United States Park Police leadership has been stonewalling, delaying, and in every conceivable way doing what it can to avoid holding its officers accountable. This letter is an insult to members of Congress because it tells us nothing more than we already knew. We must now consider other ways to get accountability for this tragic death, including congressional hearings."
"For nearly three years Bijan Ghaisar’s family and community have sought answers from federal authorities about why these officers killed Bijan and what consequences they will face. This response which tells us nothing after an eight-month delay is an insult to the people we represent,” said Beyer. “The contempt such a pathetic answer shows for public transparency and accountability is unacceptable and will further damage the standing of the U.S. Park Police at a time when the region’s trust in them is already at an all-time low."
The NPS response letter can be found here and below.
The Honorable Jennifer Wexton
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Wexton:
Thank you for your letter dated November 15, 2019, co-signed by Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr. and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, wherein you requested the duty status of the officers involved in the Bijan Ghaisar incident; information regarding the timing and scope of the Department of the Interior’s (Department) internal investigation into the matter; and the expected date of completion of the investigation.
Regarding the duty status of the officers, U.S. Park Police (USPP) Officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard were placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident. On April 29, 2018, they were both reassigned to administrative duties, not related to public contact.
As to the timing and scope of an internal investigation, the USPP does not typically comment on the substance or specific aspects of such reviews before they are complete. We can confirm that the Department has begun evaluating next steps in the context of pending cases and possible criminal action by the Fairfax County Prosecutor’s Office. This evaluation is taking into account due process concerns, among other legal obligations placed on the USPP and the Department. Additionally, we can confirm we are working with the Department of Justice and relevant offices within the Department as appropriate to ensure thorough and fair consideration to all interested parties.
When administrative investigations begin, they are generally completed within 90 calendar days, although extenuating circumstances, such as the complexity and scope of the investigation, may require additional time. In any event, all internal administrative investigations are conducted as expeditiously as possible.
A similar response is being sent to Representative Beyer and Delegate Norton.
Deputy Director, Operations
Exercising the Authority of Director