Skip to main content
Press Release

Federal Officials Decline to Reopen Investigation Into the Death of Bijan Ghaisar

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

In 2019, the Justice Department announced that it would not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the two U.S. Park Police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar during a traffic stop on Nov. 17, 2017. Following an extensive independent investigation, the department determined in 2019 that there was insufficient evidence to establish a willful violation of the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute. Yesterday, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division informed counsel for Ghaisar’s family that the department will not be reopening the federal investigation at this time.

To prevail under the federal civil rights statute, the Justice Department must prove that an officer, acting under color of law, willfully used unreasonable force. To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation. Federal officials determined that this legal standard could not be met and closed the investigation in 2019.

After the federal investigation was closed, the Commonwealth of Virginia initiated a criminal prosecution of the two officers involved in Ghaisar’s tragic death, charging them with involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm. The state prosecution was then transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. On Oct. 22, 2021, after consideration of evidentiary motions and briefs filed by the defendants and the Commonwealth, the U.S. District Court dismissed the Commonwealth’s criminal charges after finding the subject officers’ conduct was “necessary and proper” and “in accordance with federal law.”

Given the totality of the evidence reviewed, including the evidence amassed during the prior federal investigation, material submitted to the District Court, and the District Court’s findings and dismissal, the department does not have an adequate basis to reopen its prior investigation. The Justice Department remains committed to investigating allegations of unreasonable force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly examined.

Updated June 10, 2022

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 22-620