Park

Prosecutors with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney’s office on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s decision to throw out all charges against two U.S. Park Police officers in the 2017 slaying of motorist Bijan Ghaisar.

U.S. Park Police officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya during the 2017 slaying of motorist Bijan Ghaisar, in vehicle. © U.S. District Court U.S. Park Police officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya during the 2017 slaying of motorist Bijan Ghaisar, in vehicle.

The case will now be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond. The court attracted attention last year in another police shooting case, decided shortly after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when it reversed a lower court’s grant of qualified immunity for officers who shot a West Virginia man 22 times. “This has to stop,” the court’s ruling declared.

Court denounces use of deadly force by police and says, 'This has to stop'

The 4th Circuit’s statistics indicate the court takes an average of six months to issue an opinion after a notice of appeal is filed. It is quite possible that the losing side at the 4th Circuit will then ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, which centers on the issue of “supremacy immunity,” in which federal officers may not be tried by state prosecutors if their actions were “necessary and proper.”

Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton in Alexandria cited those terms in dismissing the involuntary manslaughter and weapons charges brought by a Fairfax grand jury last year against officers Lucas Vinyard, 40, and Alejandro Amaya, 42. In November 2017, Vinyard and Amaya began pursuing Ghaisar, 25, down the George Washington Memorial Parkway after he had left the scene of a fender bender in Alexandria in which he was struck from behind. A Fairfax police lieutenant joined the pursuit and his in-car video camera recorded it.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Bijan C. Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, was fatally shot by U.S. Park Police in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County, Va., on Nov. 17, 2017. He died at Inova Fairfax Hospital on Nov. 27, 2017. © N/A/TWP Bijan C. Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, was fatally shot by U.S. Park Police in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County, Va., on Nov. 17, 2017. He died at Inova Fairfax Hospital on Nov. 27, 2017.

On the video, Ghaisar is seen stopping twice and being confronted by Amaya, who was wielding his weapon. Ghaisar drove away both times. He then drove into a residential neighborhood of Fairfax and stopped at an intersection. The video shows Vinyard maneuvered his marked Park Police vehicle to block Ghaisar from driving away again, but as Amaya stood near the front of Ghaisar’s vehicle with gun drawn, Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee slowly moved forward, and both Amaya and Vinyard opened fire, killing the unarmed driver.

Judge dismisses criminal charges against Park Police officers in Bijan Ghaisar slaying

The Justice Department in 2019 declined to file federal criminal civil rights charges against the two officers. Fairfax prosecutors then picked up the case and obtained indictments against them in October 2020. The officers removed the case from Fairfax to federal court, and asked that Hilton dismiss it because they were federal officers acting properly under color of law. The supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution holds that states must defer to federal law, and courts have interpreted that to grant immunity to most federal officers charged in state court, with rare exceptions.

“Considering the circumstances,” Hilton wrote in a seven-page opinion, “the officers were reasonable to fear for Officer Amaya’s life and discharge their weapons when Ghaisar’s Jeep lurched forward”

The notice of appeal does not list the specific issues that Virginia prosecutors believe Hilton got wrong. The court will assign a three-judge panel to the case, set a briefing schedule for both sides, and then hold oral argument if it cannot resolve the case solely on the briefs. Ten of the 17 judges on the 4th Circuit were appointed by Democratic presidents. A Biden nominee awaiting confirmation to the court, Toby Heytens, was formerly lead prosecutor in the Ghaisar case, and would likely recuse himself if he joins the bench while the case is pending.

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/prosecution-appeals-dismissal-of-bijan-ghaisar-manslaughter-case-vs-park-police-officers/ar-AAPZ6zq

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