IABA Statement On Virginia Attorney General Dismissing Charges in Killing of Bijan Ghaisar Case


IABA Statement On Virginia Attorney General Dismissing Charges in Killing of Bijan Ghaisar Case

The Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) is deeply dismayed by the Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’s recent April 22, 2022 decision to dismiss the appeal of the prosecution of two U.S. Park Police Officers for the  tragic killing of Bijan Ghaisar, an Iranian-American Accountant from McLean, Virginia.

On November 17, 2017, the unarmed 25-year-old Iranian American was shot ten times by two Virginia U.S. Park Police officers – Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya –  following a minor traffic incident and police pursuit in Virginia. Subsequent to the shooting, Bijan was taken to a local hospital where he died ten days later.

In response to the shooting, a Fairfax county special grand jury returned indictments against officers Vinyard and Amaya based on state law for involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. However, on October 22, 2021, U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed these state charges on the basis of federal immunity under the Supremacy Clause. In applying the standards under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(1), Judge Hilton determined (1) the officers’ actions were authorized under federal law, and (2) the officers’ conduct was necessary and proper and undertaken as part of their official duties. Judge Hilton concluded that the federal law granted Amaya and Vinyard immunity from state prosecution. His ruling dismissed the charges against the officers, foreclosing the state prosecution and any possibility of a jury trial, despite the previous grand jury indictments.

As noted in a joint statement issued by the Virginia Attorney General and the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, a jury should have the opportunity to hear all the evidence and render its decision. To this end, the prosecutors appealed the federal court decision to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 26, 2021. However, the newly elected Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares decided on Friday, April 22nd,  to drop the state’s appeal, effectively ending the state criminal prosecution of the officers who fatally shot the unarmed 25 year old.

The Iranian American Bar Association expresses its sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Ghaisar for their loss and for this truly tragic decision by the newly elected Miyares. Moreover, and in light of the recent case, the IABA impels the Department of Justice (DOJ) to resume the investigation and charges against the Amaya and Vinyard. This is the prerogative of the department as outlined in the DOJ’s Principles of Federal Prosecution; a substantial and compelling Federal interest – supported by the state indictment now rendered hollow – exists for the prosecution of these officers in federal court, the sole remaining jurisdiction where justice may be served for Bijan, his family, the Iranian-American community, and the people of the United States.