Fairfax County Police Chief Roessiler has released dashcam footage his officers caught of the U.S. Park Police's fatal shooting of 25-year-old Brian Ghaisar, an accountant who was involved in a traffic accident and drove away from police multiple times while being pulled over.
His family has insisted Ghaisar was unarmed and police so far have not claimed otherwise. Roessiler says he was releasing the footage in the interest of transparency.
The video shows Ghaisar pulling away at least twice while the cops chase him, and it shows officers firing into the car at the end. Ghaisar does not appear to present a threat in the video.
"The video does not provide all the answers," Roessiler said in a press conference. "However, we should all have confidence in the FBI's investigation of this matter as I know it will be thorough, objective, and professional."
The FBI, which has been investigating Ghaisar's death since it occurred in late November, have released neither the names of the PArk Police officers involved nor any other details about the shooting.
Park Police say they received a call about a hit-and-run on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is operated by the National Park Service as a place for scenic and recreational driving but which drivers also use to get to and from points in and around Washington.
While Ghaisar did indeed leave the scene of the accident (or "run"), the police report on the crash identified Ghaisar's SUV as the one that was rear-ended. Such accidents are almost always the fault of the driver doing the rear-ending.
Park Police were eventually joined in their pursuit by police from Fairfax County, which is how the county came to the footage.
Park Police had Ghaisar's license plate. Although details are sparse, it's hard to imagine a scenario where it would be wise to chase after someone involved in an accident where no injuries were reported rather than looking up the license plate number and sending a ticket in the mail.
While the Supreme Court has protected police officers from liability for injuring or killing someone during most high-speed chases, rules that limit when officers can engage in such pursuits have led to fewer injuries and crashes.
As the country recovers from a 69-hour government shutdown, it's also worth thinking about whether the U.S. Park Police needs to be involved in tasks like patrolling the George Washington Parkway when local agencies, whose funding doesn't come from taxpayers around the country, are available to patrol what is essential a local parkway.
The Park Police, founded in 1791, is one of the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agencies. It is joined today by at least 70 other federal agencies that have armed employees. Particularly in cases of overlapping jurisdiction, as is the case on the George Washington Parkway, armed federal agents should be the law enforcement of last resort. They are the least responsive to local pressure and concerns, because they are not bound to local governments.
More than two months after the fatal shooting of Ghaisar, his family has little new information about what happened. Absent a local police chief willing to release video in his custody, they might have had none.
Watch the video below: