Interior secretary slammed for promoting official under FBI investigation over murder


Bijan Ghaisar was shot and killed by Park Police under the command of Robert MacLean, who has been promoted to a senior position in the Department of the Interior.

The Interior Department is being criticized for promoting former Park Police Chief Robert MacLean to a senior position at the department while the FBI investigates an unarmed shooting that occurred on his watch.

The family of Bijan Ghaisar protested outside the Interior headquarters in Washington on Monday.

The Interior Department is headed by David Bernhardt, who was nominated by Donald Trump for the position in February following the resignation of his scandal-plagued predecessor, Ryan Zinke.

Monday was MacLean's first day as director of the Interior Department’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security after stepping down from the park police. In a press release, the department said MacLean has "a stellar record protecting our most symbolic monuments and memorials and the visitors to them."

MacLean is "being promoted with the case still unsolved," Kelly Ghaisar, Bijan Ghaisar's mother, told radio station WTOP. His father told a local television station that he has cried every one of the 668 days since his son was killed.

Along with the Ghaisar family, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) attended the protest.

"Nearly 2 years after National Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar, we still don’t know why officers violated procedures and opened fire on him," Beyer wrote. "Yet their Chief was just promoted to oversee all law enforcement at @Interior. I’m with Bijan’s parents — this is unacceptable."

"If there is a lesson in the career of U.S. Park Police Chief Robert D. MacLean, it’s that a lack of accountability is no bar to success," the Washington Post noted in an early September editorial. The paper slammed MacLean for demonstrating a "breathtaking dereliction of duty" in how he has handled the shooting.

"The United States is not a police state. But make no mistake: It has acted as one in the case of Ghaisar. Official silence that drags on for 22 months in the slaying of a U.S. citizen is unacceptable, unjustifiable and un-American," they added.

Bijan Ghaisar, who was unarmed, was shot and killed in November 2017. He was involved in a fender-bender accident and drove away from the scene. After he stopped, a park police officer approached his car with his gun drawn.

"A video released by Fairfax County Police shows Park Police officers shooting Ghaisar after he stopped his car, then started to drive off as officers drew their weapons," WJLA reported. "Ghaisar was shot nine times at close range."

After the shooting, MacLean had his detectives begin a homicide investigation and told the police in Fairfax, Virginia, that they were not needed because it was a federal investigation for the park police to handle. He then turned the case over to the FBI.

"Chief MacLean allowed, and possibly ordered, his officers to guard my son’s body and treat my family in the most racist way possible," Kelly Ghaisar told the Washington Post. "The U.S. Park Police have sat on this case after killing our son. It is a disgrace that it has taken this long to investigate this murder. This is another example of a law enforcement supervisor getting promoted despite obvious evidence of conduct that would likely end any other career."

After the video of the shooting was released, MacLean refused a Freedom of Information Act request attempting to confirm that the two men involved were Park Police officers. He asserted that that information was "personal information" and "would not shed light on an agency’s performance of its statutory duties."

After the shooting, Rep. Beyer and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) proposed legislation that would require federal police — including Park Police — to wear body cameras. Despite first agreeing to meet with the representatives last February, MacLean later backed out of the meeting.

"You just don’t say to members of Congress, ‘We aren’t coming,’" Norton told reporters.

The FBI is currently investigating the shooting and has not yet released its findings. The officers involved in the shooting have been on administrative leave.

Ghaisar's family has filed a $25 million federal lawsuit to uncover what happened.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.