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A call for answers in Cambridge cop shooting

Police open fire on knife-wielding man, hundreds attend protest

Esteban Bustillos

Members of the local Bangladeshi community and their supporters continue to seek answers in the death of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal, who Cambridge police shot and killed last Wednesday after he allegedly approached officers with a knife. And while people may want questions resolved as soon as possible, any solid clarity may be a long time coming.

According to a statement from the Cambridge Police, a Cambridge resident called 911 and said they saw someone — Faisal — jump out of an apartment window and cut himself with a large knife and broken glass.

Faisal reportedly ran with the knife after seeing the police. According to the statement, police officers requested Faisal put the knife down. He allegedly moved towards them with the knife.

One officer shot at Faisal with a “sponge round,” typically used for riot control, and when Faisal reportedly kept approaching police, an officer shot him with a firearm. According to Cambridge police, officers then rendered aid to Faisal until paramedics arrived. Faisal was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where, according to the statement, he later died.

On Monday, hundreds gathered outside Cambridge City Hall demanding more answers about what exactly happened and why the situation couldn’t have been resolved without Faisal’s life being taken in the process.

Tanvir Murad with the Bangladesh Association of New England, which organized the protest, told demonstrators Faisal had been studying computer science and that he was the only child of his family.

“We came here to request the city, the police department, the district attorney, please do [a] proper investigation,” he said. “How does it happen? Why [can we] not save one of our brightest kids?”

An investigation is being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to the DA’s office and the Cambridge Police.

Barbara Dougan, legal director for the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told protesters that the process to conduct that investigation will not be a quick one.

“I saw a sign that said, ‘Answers now,’ but I think we should keep that going … that this isn’t gonna happen as quickly as any of us would like,” she said. “But we also understand that a good, thorough process with integrity takes time.”

She added that an inquest, where a judge conducts an independent investigation, could take over a year to take place.

Because of that, Dougan and others encouraged protesters to keep up their support. Still, it was emotional scene outside City Hall, where people who knew Faisal recalling him as giving and kindhearted and larger questions — like why he hadn’t received more mental health support — lingered among the crowd.

That energy transferred to the City Council meeting later in the evening, where dozens of people were already signed up for public comment when the meeting began.

At the meeting, City Manager Yi-An Huang said that there will be a full and transparent release of the facts and findings from the DA’s investigation when it is complete and that the Cambridge police department is fully cooperating.

“My understanding is that it will be many months before this work is complete and I know that this will be a hard time to process together without the full facts,” he said.

Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow said that she hopes that the police department can work on healing and strengthening its relationship with Bangladeshi and Muslim communities in the city that have been impacted by the event.

City Councilor Burhan Azeem said that now is a time to verify the values Cambridge says it upholds.

“We hear a lot about how wonderful our police officers and our police department is and all the progressive work we do,” he said. “And I think at most moments we take that from the trust part, right? That we really do work hard, we’re a progressive city and we’re always trying hard. And I think that now is a moment for verification.”

The city of Cambridge will be hosting a community meeting about the incident Thursday at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School from 6 to 8 p.m. Middlesex DA Marian Ryan, along with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Huang and Commissioner Elow are all slated to be in attendance.

Esteban Bustillos is a reporter for GBH News.

Bangladeshi, Cambridge Police, police shooting