Op-Ed authored by attorney and journalist Techno Fog
In November of 2019, Jessie Liu, the former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, declined to press charges against two U.S. Park Police officers who fatally shot a harmless and unarmed driver four times in the head.
Next week, on February 13, 2020, Liu - who was rejected last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the #3 spot at the DOJ - will attend a hearing for her nomination to be the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes at the Department of the Treasury.
If this makes you angry, it should. Only in D.C. does cowardice get you a promotion.
The driver was Bijan Ghaisar, a 25 year-old young man who fled the scene of a minor car accident. (He was the one who had been hit.) Officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya followed him and eventually blocked his Jeep’s path at an intersection. Ghaisar turned his car from the officers and tried to get away at a low speed. The officers weren’t threatened – Ghaisar didn’t have a gun and they weren’t in the path of a speeding car. They responded by firing nine shots into his Jeep at close range. He was hit four times in the head and once in the wrist. He later died at the hospital.
This video shows the fatal shots and the moments leading up to the killing.
It’s clear from the video that the officers - who claimed self defense - weren’t in danger. The Jeep wasn’t speeding in their direction; rather, it was moving ever so slowly to the side. Making matters worse – if that’s possible – the final few shots were put on Ghaisar after the Jeep started rolling into a ditch. By that point he was apparently incapacitated. The officers just finished the job.
Despite the video evidence, Liu declined to press charges. Her office defended her decision, stating that "there is insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the Department is unable to disprove a claim of self-defense or defense of others by the officers."
"Unable to disprove a claim of self-defense."
What's more, Liu's office declined to issue a written report on the case, as is standard practice in high-profile police shootings. And according to the Washington Post, she stymied a Fairfax prosecutor’s request for FBI agents to appear before a grand jury about the shooting.
Making matters worse - Liu was a roadblock to the local prosecution as well.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) February 7, 2020
Virginia prosecutors' request for FBI agents to appear before a grand jury "were stymied by Liu herself" pic.twitter.com/HvW0VlBk2g
Ghaisar’s family disagreed:
"Today’s decision was a cowardly act by a Department of Justice that is afraid to hold law enforcement, especially federal law enforcement, accountable when it commits murder."
They’re right. Jessie Liu denied a murder victim justice. She refused to hold federal officers accountable - which Fairfax County Prosecutors decided to pursue last December after Lieu gave them a pass. She trivialized the grief of the family by disputing what they and the rest of the world saw with their own eyes – an unjustified execution.
Liu is the manifestation of everything wrong with DC: the powerful protecting the institutions from those it victimized. If she gets the job at Treasury, it would show that not only does crime pay, but the cover-up pays better.