WASHINGTON (AP) — Two U.S. Park Police officers recently cleared of criminal charges in the fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist in northern Virginia have been informed that the Interior Department is seeking to fire them, union officials said Tuesday.
Leaders of the Park Police’s Fraternal Order of Police union lodge said the department’s action before any internal investigation or disciplinary process violated the union’s contract and wouldn’t withstand legal scrutiny, The Washington Post reported.
Officers Lucas Vinyard, 40, and Alejandro Amaya, 42, have been on paid administrative duty or paid leave since the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, 25, in November 2017. Ghaisar was fatally shot after authorities say he left the scene of an accident on the George Washington Memorial Parkway outside the nation’s capital and led officers on a stop-and-go chase.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said the officers remain on paid leave but declined to discuss “this ongoing administrative matter.” Lawyers for the officers did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
“It is extremely disappointing,” Park Police union leader Kenneth Spencer said Tuesday, “that the Biden administration has taken such a hard line and illegal anti-labor position.”
The union “will be initiating a full-scale offensive campaign against the Department of Interior and the National Park Service,” Spencer said in an email to members.
Both officers were charged with involuntary manslaughter in Fairfax County last year, after the Justice Department declined to bring any criminal charges. Both officers claimed their status as federal officers granted them immunity from local prosecution, and Hilton agreed in the ruling. The state’s attorney and attorney general have said they will appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
Ghaisar’s family issued a statement Tuesday saying that the officers have “escaped accountability” for four years.
“We strongly support this modest measure of accountability that will remove these dangerous officers from the United States Park Police and prevent them from patrolling the streets of our community, and hopefully, avoid another tragedy,” the family statement said.