FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shayan H. Modarres
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 386-6325
Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) issued the following statement in response to the release of video footage recorded by Fairfax County Police Department depicting the last moments of Bijan Ghaisar’s life before he was shot to death by officers.
“It is unacceptable that a young man who was the victim of a minor fender bender has been tragically shot and killed by three bullets to the head from police officers’ guns.
“The video released this morning, and what we know so far, certainly seem to indicate that officers repeatedly and aggressively charged towards Bijan Ghaisar’s vehicle looking for a confrontation and shot Bijan three times in the head at close range. The fact that officers did not use every tool at their disposal to de-escalate the situation and minimize the need for use of force exposes not only the glaring deficiency in training, but also what appears to be a wanton and reckless disregard for Bijan’s life. Nothing in the video justifies that this incident should have ended in a fatal shooting.
“This tragic incident comes at a dark time for an Iranian-American community that has been profiled, discriminated against, and targeted by policies and hateful rhetoric from the White House. Through policies like the Muslim Ban, Iranian Americans have been characterized as inherently dangerous and a threat to national security by the White House and other officials. This certainly calls into question whether Bijan Ghaisar was profiled because of his physical appearance and personalized “BIJAN” license plate.
“The Iranian-American community stands in solidarity with other communities of color that have been impacted by unjustified police violence against unarmed citizens. The need for immediate policing reform in the United States is an issue that transcends creed, color, class, or political affiliation.
“Training reforms must include implicit and unconscious biases training so that officers are better equipped to identify threats, and not perceive people of color as greater threats and, therefore, react more aggressively when confronting them. We must have community oversight, and meaningful and sincere reviews of uses of force by law enforcement with swift and severe consequences for officers that violate the law.
“Training reforms must also emphasize de-escalation techniques and tactics to minimize the need for officers to rely on force, and particularly lethal force. Officers must be taught that in circumstances such as this, where someone like Bijan presents no immediate threat to officer or public safety, officers must try to make contact from a safe distance rather than rushing to the vehicle to engage in a violent confrontation. If the circumstances permit, a tactical withdrawal, or temporary retreat, will minimize the need to rely on use of force and offer alternatives to lethal force, such as communication and non-violent tactics.
“Officers must also be trained to use lethal force as a last resort and not a first option. There are a number of non-lethal tools at an officer’s disposal like pepper spray, tasers, and batons.
“If police culture shifted towards these reforms, and others, which emphasize valuing and preserving life, Bijan Ghaisar would likely be alive today. Instead, the victim of a minor fender bender is dead, shot multiple times by police, and a family – indeed an entire community – is left completely devastated.
“NIAC calls on the Fairfax County Police Department, the United States Park Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough and professional review of all existing policies, institute any and all necessary reforms, and hold accountable officers that acted wrongfully through swift and immediate action.”
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