CAMBRIDGE — A police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old UMass Boston student after he allegedly charged at the officer with a long knife following a foot chase over several blocks Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
Officers responded to Chestnut Street in the Cambridgeport neighborhood at about 1:15 p.m. after a 911 caller reported seeing a man jump from the window of a nearby apartment holding what the caller described as a machete. The weapon was later found to be a kukri knife about 10- to 12-inches long, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a briefing at the Cambridge Police Department Wednesday night.
The caller said that the man, later identified as 20-year-old Sayed Faisal of Cambridge, was sitting in a courtyard cutting himself with the machete and a piece of broken glass from the window, according to Ryan.
Officers found Faisal leaving an alley behind a building on Sydney Street when they reached the scene, and he began running when he saw police, Ryan said. She said Faisal ran for several blocks around the neighborhood before circling back to Chestnut Street where he again encountered officers.
Ryan said Faisal moved toward the officers with the knife after they asked him to drop the weapon. One officer fired a less-than-lethal sponge round but Faisal allegedly “continued to advance to the officers holding the knife at one point across his body and then holding it in front of him,” at which point an officer fired their gun, striking Faisal, Ryan said.
The victim was given medical aid at the scene before he was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.
The officer was placed on leave pending an investigation into the shooting by Ryan’s office, per the police department’s policy, officials said.
Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow expressed condolences to Faisal’s family and said the department is cooperating with Ryan’s investigation.
“Any time a life is lost in our community, it is tragic,” she said. “We are all mourning.”
Elow said Cambridge officers have received “extensive training in use of force” including de-escalation training, mental health first-aid, and crisis intervention training.
“From our perspective, from what we’ve seen so far, our officers tried several times to engage the individual verbally [but] unsuccessfully,” she said. “This lasted over five blocks from where we first encountered them.”
In a joint statement, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Yi-An Huang also expressed condolences for Faisal’s loved ones and said the city will hold a community meeting “to process together” early next week.
“We will review all of the facts and findings as they become available and we are committed to learning from this case to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in our community,” their statement said.
In the Cambridgeport neighborhood where the incident occurred, a large police presence was still on the scene Wednesday night.
Yellow police tape blocked access to Chestnut and Sidney streets. Several police cruisers were parked along the streets, where some homes were still decorated with holiday lights.
The investigation seemed to focus on the apartment complex located at 625 Putnam Ave. Crime scene tape blocked off the apartment complex. Three police officers stood across the street.
Two more officers stood at the intersection of Putnam Avenue and Sidney Street.
Police on the scene declined to comment.
Several neighbors said they were surprised to arrive home to find streets blocked off. Some approached by the Globe said they were not home at the time of the incident.
Giulia Graber, who lives on Putnam Avenue, learned of the shooting from a Globe reporter.
Graber, a resident for 16 years who lives near the Sidney Street intersection, said she has noticed a change in the neighborhood the last three or four years.
She said she doesn’t feel as safe walking in the neighborhood.
“It seems a little more unnerving,” Graber said, standing on her front steps. “I drive to Harvard. I drive to MIT. I don’t walk.”