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Westlake Legal Group > Local News

DC, Va. reps want release of 911 calls in fatal Park Police shooting of Bijan Ghaisar

After the U.S. Department of Justice ended its civil rights investigation into the U.S. Park Police following the fatal shooting of a Fairfax County, Virginia, man, there is a renewed call to release the 911 tapes related to the shooting.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and U.S. Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton, both representing Virginia, want the tapes related to the 2017 shooting of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar, of McLean, to be released.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the three lawmakers urged the agency to allow local entities involved in the case to release the calls.

“We believe there are such recording. We believe we’re entitled to them,” Norton said.

One call in particular, is believed to have been made by the driver who was involved in a fender bender with Ghaisar on the night of his death.

Ghaisar had been rear-ended in Old Town Alexandria and then left the scene. As Park Police pursued Ghaisar, he stopped his Jeep twice but drove away.

After a third stop, officers approached Ghaisar’s vehicle and then fired 10 shots at the vehicle. Ghaisar was unarmed.

According to the lawmakers’ letter to the FBI, they want to know if the 911 calls can offer insight into why the officers chose to use deadly force. Beyer had requested the tapes before in March 2018, but his request was denied by the FBI.

Ghaisar’s family has also requested the 911 tapes in the past, as part of a civil suit, which they said was aimed at getting more information during the investigation.

Norton said she assured the Ghaisar family that the case is not over.

She believes there would be less outrage if those involved in the investigation would have been more transparent throughout the process.

Among her concerns was how Ghaisar’s family found out the identity of the officers who opened fire — by filing a lawsuit.

“So beginning there, it looked as if the authorities are engaged in something close to a cover up,” Norton said.

Norton also called on the Park Police to investigate the case because she believes the officers broke department policies on the night of the shooting.

“They [US Park Police] can institute an investigation that could result in these officers being sanctioned or possibly terminated,” Norton said.

WTOP has reached out to the FBI for comment.

Source

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Metro to sell naming rights to station on Silver Line extension

Metro plans to sell corporate naming rights for Fairfax County’s Innovation Center Metro station on the forthcoming Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County — a station that may no longer be called Innovation Center at all.

The Metro Board is set Thursday “to allow a Fortune Global 500 Company to sponsor and rename the new Innovation Center Metro station on the Dulles Corridor,” according to documents prepared for the board.

This would be a one-time sponsorship deal, rather than a wholesale change to Metro policy. A change to explicitly allow other sponsorship deals is likely in the next few months.

“A unique and time-sensitive opportunity has arisen where a Fortune Global 500 Company, currently in negotiations to lease headquarters adjacent to the new Innovation Center Metro station has expressed interest in being the corporate sponsor for this new station,” the Metro documents said.

Acting now would set expectations for the costs of naming other stops, office buildings or entire rail lines.

“The Corporate Sponsor plans to use its North America headquarters as a gateway for its international visitors and local employees visiting its North America headquarters, with many of these visitors and employees using Dulles International Airport and the Dulles Airport Metro station,” the documents said.

The deal still must be finalized, which is why Metro has not disclosed the name of the company.

The deal would mean the Innovation Center station opens next year with a different, sponsored name, which could signal a willingness not just to add sponsors’ names to existing stations but also to rename them entirely if the price is right.

Innovation Center is just east of Virginia Route 28 near Sunrise Valley Drive and Innovation Avenue/Rock Hill Road.

The airport will be one stop to the west; Herndon Station at the current Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, will be one stop to the east.

Metro is aiming to offset lost revenue due to ridership declines, with the goal of staying within new cost caps and reducing the need for fare increases.

Source

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Ghaisar family demands answers about Park Police fatal shooting

Demands for justice and police transparency rang out between the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool Sunday afternoon, two years — to the day — after 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar of McLean, Virginia, was fatally wounded during a traffic stop after a fender bender and chase along George Washington Parkway.

Last Thursday, the Justice Department announced it would not charge the U.S. Park Police officers involved in the shooting. They received a letter explaining the department’s rationale to not charge them.

But the family and lawmakers from Virginia and D.C. still want answers — including what led the officers to open fire on Ghaisar.

“This is not over,” said Negeen Ghaisar, Bijan’s sister. “We are just getting started.”

Her husband and other speakers reflected that refrain throughout Sunday’s rally amid cheers and statements punctuated with the sound of bucket drums.

Bijan Ghaisar was shot several times by two U.S. Park Police officers during a traffic stop and a chase after a fender-bender.

“We are enraged, but not surprised, but this is not over,” said Kouros Emami, Bijan’s brother-in-law.

Two years later, the family is still wondering why the officers opened fire.

“Virginia can still charge them with murder. The Park Police can still fire them,” she said to the crowd.

Several federal and state lawmakers attended the rally in support of the family, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton and State Senator Scott Surovell who told the gathering he lives two blocks from where Ghaisar was gunned down.

“My neighborhood is terrified. I represent 50,000 people who live along the Potomac River, and when they see the U.S. Park Police, they’re not comforted, they’re terrified,” he said. “It took two years to give no answer.”

“I just want you to think for a second, if it was Officer Vinyard or Amaya that got shot, either one of them that got shot, not even killed, just shot that night, would it take two years to get them justice?“ Surovell asked. He was met with resounding shouts of “no” rippling through the crowd.

Wexton is part of a trio of federal lawmakers that sent a letter calling on the U.S. Park Police to begin an internal investigation into Ghaisar’s death.

“It’s clear that they are not providing any information and I think that the family and the American people deserve and need this information,” Wexton told WTOP after the rally.

Wexton, Beyer and Holmes-Norton are asking for a written response by Dec. 5 addressing whether the requested investigation will proceed, when it’s expected to conclude, how wide a scope it’ll cover, and what the duty status of the officers will be during the investigation.

Kelly Ghaisar, Bijan’s mother read part of the letter that explained the Justice Department’s reasons for not charging the officers, followed by her interpretation of Thursday’s news:

“They cannot prosecute because they are immune to kill you with no explanation whatsoever.”

Source

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Do Fairfax Co.’s biggest malls have too many parking spaces? Mall owners say yes

As the holiday shopping season draws near, stress levels are bound to rise. Thousands upon thousands will head to malls filled with holes in their wallets as they try to game plan how to get in and out of the biggest malls in the D.C. region as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the hardest parts of it all will be getting there — and finding a parking spot.

It can often feel like there is no perfect parking spot at this time of year, since spots close to the entrances tend to be taken by cars that seem like they’ll be camped out there until after New Year’s. On days like that, some might ask how anyone could question whether there’s too much parking.

But mall owners in Fairfax County, Virginia, are not only asking that, county staff are saying the answer is yes — there is too much parking.

Right now the county is considering a change to a zoning amendment that would alter the formula used to determine how much parking is provided at the four biggest shopping centers: Tysons Corner Mall, Tysons Galleria, Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center. Basically, the change would allow those shopping centers to reduce the amount of parking available.

The measure is being pushed by Fair Oaks Mall, which wants to be able to redevelop some of the parking lots and build new amenities to adapt to evolving retail trends.

A study commissioned by Fair Oaks found that at the peak hour on a December Saturday — what would be the busiest hour of the busiest shopping days of the year — the peak demand is less than what’s available.

During a planning commission meeting on Wednesday, Michael Davis, parking program manager with the county’s land development services department, said the peak demand “is between 65 and 70% of the current supply.”

At other times, both in December and in the summer months, less than half the spaces are filled there, and at Springfield Town Center too.

“The demand is significantly lower than the requirement,” Davis said.

The proposal is being pushed by Fair Oaks because it stands to be impacted the most by this.

Springfield Town Center is already going through some planned development.

Two malls in the Tysons area already have the ability to reduce their parking to as many as zero spaces if desired. While those malls are included in this measure by virtue of their size, the actual impact on those malls would be negligible.

Nevertheless, it didn’t stop planning commissioners from expressing concern about the potential impact this would have on the malls at Tysons.

County staff, and those testifying on behalf of Fair Oaks Mall, stressed that it’s highly unlikely Tysons would do anything that would potentially keep customers away.

Tony Calabrese, a lawyer who represents Fair Oaks Mall in this, told the commission that “our larger retail centers, particularly those in suburban locations … don’t need anywhere near the ocean of asphalt that we had in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.”

“Our shopping and personal service habits have changed dramatically,” added Calabrese, who noted the trend of home delivery of goods, groceries, and even dine-in restaurant meals is accelerating, not declining. “The parking requirements have to be dropped and they have to be dropped significantly.”

The current rule is that malls of their size must provide four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. Fair Oaks is hoping to reduce that number to 2 1/2 to three spaces per 1,000 feet of gross floor area.

While the county’s staff recommends allowing the change, the planning commission sounded skeptical during a two-hour public hearing last Wednesday. They’ll take up the measure at this Wednesday’s board meeting.

However, the ultimate decision will rest with the board of supervisors, which has scheduled a public hearing on this for Dec. 3.

The planning commission is expected to vote on the measure this Wednesday. The board of supervisors will take it up next month.

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Man with gun barricaded inside Fairfax Co. home, police say

A man with a gun is barricaded inside a home in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Virginia, police said.

The situation is happening at a home on the 6200 block of Fogle Street. Residents are urged to shelter in place.

Officers are working to resolve the situation peacefully.

Below is a map of where the incident is happening.

function initMapArticle() { var lnglat = {lat: 38.778006, lng: -77.155126}; var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById(‘map_article’), { zoom: 15, center: lnglat }); var trafficLayer = new google.maps.TrafficLayer(); trafficLayer.setMap(map); var marker = new google.maps.Marker({ position: lnglat, map: map, title: ‘Barricade’ }); }

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Do Fairfax Co.’s biggest malls have too many parking spaces? Malls say yes

As the holiday shopping season draws near, stress levels are bound to rise. Thousands upon thousands of us will head to malls filled with holes in our wallets and dread in our hearts as we try to game plan how to get in and out of the biggest malls in the D.C. region as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the hardest parts of it all will be getting there — and finding a parking spot.

It can often feel like there is no perfect parking spot at this time of year, since spots close to the entrances tend to be taken by cars that seem like they’ll be camped out there until after New Year’s. On days like that, some might ask how anyone could question whether there’s too much parking.

But mall owners in Fairfax County, Virginia, are not only asking that, county staff say the answer is yes, there is too much parking.

Right now the county is considering a change to a zoning amendment that would alter the formula used to determine how much parking is provided at the four biggest shopping centers: Tysons Corner Mall, Tysons Galleria, Fair Oaks Mall, and Springfield Town Center. Basically, the change would allow those shopping centers to reduce the amount of parking that’s there.

The measure is being pushed by Fair Oaks Mall, which wants to be able to redevelop some of the parking lots and build new amenities to adapt to evolving retail trends.

A study commissioned by Fair Oaks found that at the peak hour on a December Saturday, what would be the busiest hour of the busiest shopping days of the year, the peak demand “is between 65 and 70% of the current supply,” said Michael Davis, Parking Program Manager with the county’s land development services department, during a planning commission meeting on Wednesday.

At other times, both in December and in the summer months, less than half the spaces are filled there, and at Springfield Town Center too.

“The demand is significantly lower than the requirement,” Davis said.

The proposal is being pushed by Fair Oaks because it stands to be impacted the most by this.

Springfield Town Center is already going through some planned development, and it was stressed repeatedly that the two malls in the Tysons area already have the ability to reduce their parking to as many as zero spaces if desired, so while they’re included in this measure by virtue of their size, the actual impact on those malls would be negligible.

Nevertheless, it didn’t stop planning commissioners from expressing concern about the potential impact this would have on the malls at Tysons.

County staff, and those testifying on behalf of Fair Oaks Mall, stressed that it’s highly unlikely Tysons would do anything that would potentially keep customers away.

Tony Calabrese, a lawyer who represents Fair Oaks Mall in this, told the commission that “our larger retail centers, particularly those in suburban locations … don’t need anywhere near the ocean of asphalt that we had in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.”

“Our shopping and personal service habits have changed dramatically,” added Calabrese, who noted the trend of home delivery of goods, groceries, and even dine-in restaurant meals is accelerating, not declining. “The parking requirements have to be dropped and they have to be dropped significantly.”

The current rule is that malls of their size must provide four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area. Fair Oaks is hoping to reduce that number to two and a half to three spaces per 1,000 feet of gross floor area.

While the county’s staff recommends allowing the change, the planning commission sounded skeptical during a two-hour public hearing last Wednesday. They’ll take up the measure at this Wednesday’s board meeting.

However, the ultimate decision will rest with the board of supervisors, which has scheduled a public hearing on this for Dec. 3.

The planning commission is expected to vote on the measure this Wednesday. The board of supervisors will take it up next month.

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

DOJ letter outlines why US Park Police officers won’t be prosecuted for civil rights violations in Ghaisar case

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a pair of US Park Police officers would not be prosecuted for federal civil rights violations related to the shooting death of Bijan Ghaisar.

WTOP has obtained the letter outlining the rationale behind that decision.

The letter, sent to the Ghaisar family through their lawyer, was signed by James Felte, the chief of the criminal section at the top of the Justice Department, and T. Patrick Martin, the criminal chief in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington.

It details how many times Ghaisar was shot at by U.S. Park Police Officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, including that Amaya shot first, but that four of the five shots fired by Vinyard “were responsible for the fatal wounds” to Ghaisar’s head.

From there, the letter goes into the legal reasoning behind the decision. The two prosecutors describe that in order to press forward with charges of civil rights violations, the government would have to prove that Amaya and Vinyard intentionally shot at Ghaisar, and did so “with the specific intent to deprive him of the right to be free from an unreasonable use of force.”

It’s noted that the standard of proof for a civil rights violation is higher than what’s usually required under state law.

“Federal proesuctors would have to prove not only that an officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that he did so ‘willfully,’ which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean he acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law.

“As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required…”

The letter says that the government would have to “affirmatively disprove that Amaya did not act in self-defense and that Vinyard did not act in self-defense of Amaya or others. After a review of all the evidence, we are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers did not perceive a deadly threat, even if that perception was mistaken or the result of poor judgment.”

At the end of the letter, the prosecutors specifically said this finding is limited to a federal civil rights prosecution and does not prevent other components of the Justice Department, as well as state prosecutors, from charging officers Amaya and Vinyard for their actions in this case.

Source

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Fairfax Co. police chief: Breach may have compromised officers’ data

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Officials say a possible data breach may have compromised the personal information of more than 500 employees of a Virginia police department.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. told the Washington Post that he doesn’t have any reports that officers’ personal information has been exploited.

But the chief says he is concerned after learning that officers’ names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers may have been compromised by the potential breach at a neighboring police department.

Roessler says the data was on a missing memory stick that contained the email inbox of the Purcellville police chief. Roessler said it wasn’t clear if there was a reason for the data to be in the other chief’s email or if Fairfax County also had a data breach.

___

Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com

Source

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Over two dozen displaced in Falls Church apartment blaze

Three people were rescued from an apartment building fire in Falls Church, Virginia, early Saturday morning which left over two dozen displaced from their homes.

Around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Fairfax County fire and rescue crews were dispatched to a blaze at a garden-style apartment building on the 7300 block of Lee Highway in Falls Church.

First responders faced what a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department lieutenant described as “fire through the roof,” rescuing three of the building’s occupants while quickly bringing the fire under control.

The three rescued were transported to a local hospital. Thirty-five residents were displayed, and an investigation continues Saturday morning to determine the fire’s origins.

Source

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Search for details in Justice Dept. decision to not charge Park Police officers in shooting of Bijan Ghaisar

Almost two years since unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police, the Justice Department’s decision to not charge the two officers with federal criminal civil rights violations has lawmakers and family members asking for a more specific explanation.

The news release from the office Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said prosecutors cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard willfully violated civil rights law — specifically that he not be subjected to unreasonable seizure.

“The Department is unable to disprove a claim of self-defense or defense of others by the officers,” according to the release.

The news release doesn’t address the issue of why Amaya and Vinyard felt the need to fire nine times at Ghaisar, who was in the driver seat of his Jeep, at a stop sign.

In a federal lawsuit against the officers and government, lawyers for the officers said they fired in self-defense.

Ghaisar, a 25-year-old accountant from McLean, Virginia, was shot by the two officers on Nov. 17, 2017, in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County, Virginia. The shooting followed a police chase on the George Washington Parkway, during which the officers repeatedly tried to pull Ghaisar over without success.

A Fairfax County police dash camera captured part of the pursuit and the shooting.

In the two years since the shooting, Liu has never answered reporters’ questions about the Ghaisar investigation. She will likely be asked questions about it during an unrelated news conference Friday morning.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley issued a joint statement: “The Ghaisars deserve to understand what happened. To that end, we will be formally requesting a briefing within the next 30 days from the Department of Justice to understand what went into the decision.”

Warner and Grassley said they will watch with interest to see whether state or local criminal charges are filed against the officers, or whether the U.S. Park Police will open an internal investigation.

Ghaisar family attorney Roy Austin said he received a short phone call informing him of the Justice Department’s conclusion, followed by a hand-delivered letter to him. He said the Justice Department did not contact the family directly.

In its statement, the family called the decision a “cowardly act by a Department of Justice that is afraid to hold law enforcement, especially federal law enforcement, accountable when it commits murder.”

While the possibility of state or local charges exists, according to the family, “at the very least these rogue officers should be fired.”

Lawyers for the officers have not commented since the Justice conclusion was announced.

In its statement, U.S. Park Police said they are reviewing the findings of the FBI investigation, but did not mention whether the agency will open an internal investigation.

Source

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