The federal government has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a man who died after he left the scene of a minor traffic accident and was shot in his vehicle by officers in Virginia in 2017, according to court documents.
According to an amended complaint his family filed in US District Court, 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, who was unarmed, was shot by two officers of the United States Park Police, a unit of the National Park Service.
Dashcam footage of the incident from a Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer, showed Ghaisar stopped twice during a vehicle pursuit before a third stop resulted in shots fired by officers. The US government has denied liability for the shooting, arguing in court documents that “as sad as this case is,” Ghaisar was not shot until “he drove his vehicle” at one of the officers involved, CNN previously reported.
Ghaisar was taken to a hospital after being shot, where he spent 10 days in a coma before dying.
The family of Ghaisar filed a civil lawsuit against the US government, claiming “wrongful death and the intentional infliction of emotional distress,” court documents show.
Subsequent years of investigations following the shooting with few answers provided led the family to call on allies and supporters – including members of Congress – to demonstrate and help where possible. Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among other elected officials, issued multiple joint statements calling on the Justice Department to reveal more information.
“The Ghaisars deserve to understand what happened to Bijan,” the senators said in a 2019 statement after the Justice Department announced it would not criminally charge the officers.
The officers were charged by prosecutors in Fairfax County in 2020 with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm, but the charges were later ordered dismissed in federal court, according to CNN affiliate WJLA. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office declined to pursue the matter further in 2022.
US District Judge Claude Hilton on Friday ordered that US “agents, servants, and employees” are released from liability claims regarding Ghaisar’s death “upon payment of the aforesaid settlement funds.”
CNN has reached out to the United States Park Police for comment.
In a statement, the Ghaisar family said, “After years of seeking justice within our legal system, we deeply understand that our system is broken and needs to be fixed. Rather than continue to fight against a broken system that fails to hold most rogue police officers accountable for acts of brutality, we have agreed to a settlement – the proceeds of which will go to The Bijan Ghaisar Foundation and other charitable causes. We plan to continue our fight.”
“The Foundation, formed in 2018,” the statement said, “has as one of its missions to work at the local, state, and federal level to reform policing standards and to enact laws that lift restrictions on remedying violations by law enforcement. In our fight for Bijan we have already seen some progress.”
CNN’s Dakin Andone and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.