The Washington Post Sunday

Mr. Wray, the FBI and the killing of Bijan Ghaisar

Thirteen months ago, the agency launched an investigat­ion. The result — silence — is a scandal.


IN A message introducin­g his agency’s annual report on crime in 2016, FBI Director Christophe­r A. Wray led with the basics. “In law enforcemen­t we must be accountabl­e to the people we serve,” he wrote. “To be accountabl­e, we must be transparen­t. We are transparen­t when we share data and the circumstan­ces surroundin­g crime rates, and incidents involving law enforcemen­t’s use of force.”

Fine words. If only Mr. Wray and the FBI lived up to them in the case of Bijan Ghaisar, whose unwarrante­d killing at the hands of U.S. Park Police continues to languish somewhere in the agency’s investigat­ion files.

For 13 months, the bureau has been in charge of investigat­ing the circumstan­ces surroundin­g the death of Ghaisar, a 25-year-old accountant who died after two Park Police officers shot him repeatedly, at close range, just south of Alexandria near the Potomac River. Ghaisar was unarmed; he had no criminal history; and dashboard-camera video of the shooting shows he posed no threat to the Park Police officers who pursued and shot him after his car was involved in a minor fender-bender on the George Washington Parkway.

For 13 months, the FBI has been silent. For 13 months, not a word of informatio­n has emerged to illuminate why Ghaisar was shot, the thinking and conduct of the officers who shot him, or the reasons for the glacial pace of the investigat­ion. The officers, still unidentifi­ed, remain on the Park Police payroll, assigned to administra­tive duty.

Justice delayed is justice denied — and in the case of Ghaisar’s death, the delay is now so prolonged as to constitute a scandal. The Park Police, having turned over the investigat­ion to the FBI, is mum. Neither agency has reached out to Ghaisar’s parents. And a police shooting that looked unjustifie­d from the outset by now takes on the characteri­stics of a coverup: stonewalli­ng, unaccounta­bility and a code of silence whose effect is to protect uniformed officers from the consequenc­es of their poor judgment.

None of that is to excuse the actions of Ghaisar, who kept driving after his vehicle was rear-ended. Then, when pursued by the Park Police patrol car, he pulled over twice and, when the officers approached him with guns drawn — an unjustifie­d tactic — drove off twice. When he pulled over a third time, then slowly rolled away from the officers who again approached with guns drawn, they opened fire.

How did a small-time collision result in such a sequence of events? Why did the officers draw their guns, in contravent­ion of most police department guidelines? On what basis did they justify pulling their triggers?

Those are the straightfo­rward questions the FBI is charged with answering to satisfy Mr. Wray’s own plain-spoken directives about transparen­cy and accountabi­lity. To date, it has failed, and that failure subverts public trust in the nation’s leading law enforcemen­t agency.

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