Hundreds of community members gathered Monday in front of Cambridge City Hall to demand answers following the police killing last week of 20-year-old Sayed Faisal.
Faisal was a supportive and energetic person, an immigrant and only child whose family came to the United States about a decade ago to pursue the American dream, family and friends said. Faisal, a computer science major at the University of Massachusetts Boston, was affectionately referred to by his parents as “Prince.”
“Prince was the most wonderful, caring, loving, generous, supportive, and deeply family-oriented person,” Faisal’s parents, Sayed Mujibullah and Mosammat Shaheda, said in a statement read by Fatuma Mohamed, youth advocacy officer for the Council on American Islamic Relations.
“He loved to travel, create art, and play sports with his friends. He expressed his feelings through gifts. He never forgot special occasions, and always made sure that those around him were appreciated.”
On Jan. 4, police responded to a 911 call reporting a man, later identified as Faisal, jumping out of an apartment window in Cambridgeport with a knife and then cutting himself in the courtyard below, the Globe previously reported.
When police located Faisal bleeding in an alleyway, he fled with the knife, officials said. After a chase that lasted roughly 12 minutes and a confrontation with officers, Faisal was fatally shot, officials said.
“Some might have said, ‘Well, Cambridge is different,’ but it’s not,” said Steven Gillis, a school bus driver from Roslindale. “In the City of Cambridge, which flies the Black Lives Matter banner over City Hall, apparently police haven’t gotten the word . . . We don’t need to send police to a call that says some young person may be hurting themselves in the courtyard.”
The weapon Faisal carried was identified as a 10- to 12-inch kukri knife, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said last week. Officers pursued him for several blocks before attempting to verbally engage him on Chestnut Street, asking him to drop the weapon, she said.
According to Ryan, Faisal then began approaching the officers with the knife. When he was undeterred by a “less-than-lethal” sponge grenade, an officer fired his department-issued gun, lethally striking Faisal, who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
Monday’s demonstration was organized by the Bangladesh Association of New England. Volunteers passed out signs reading “Justice for Faisal,” as well as water bottles and hand warmers as temperatures dropped into the 30s.
“Faisal was a member of our community. He was only 20 years old, he was a baby,” said Rachel Domond, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which helped organize the protest. “We see, not just in Boston, not just in Cambridge, not just in Massachusetts, but all over the country, the police kill people with impunity..”
Amtiaz Uddin was moved to tears as he spoke of his friendship with Faisal.
“He was my best friend.” Uddin told the Globe. “He was always being nice to everyone. He was always beside me for any situation.”
Speakers called for a transparent and thorough investigation of Faisal’s death.
“Today we all gathered here to show our anger, our frustration, our discontent” said Tanvir Murad, general secretary of the Bangladesh Association, to the crowd, resulting in shouts of “shame” from demonstrators. “That bullet did not only kill Faisal, it also killed his parents. They have no hope left. They have no children left.”
Cambridge will hold a community meeting Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King School to answer questions. The City Council will hold a meeting Jan. 18 to further discuss the shooting.
The officer who fatally shot Faisal had been on the force seven to eight years, Ryan said last week. The officer has been placed on leave while the investigation continues. The Cambridge Police Department does not use body cameras.