Family and friends of the man killed in a police shooting in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Wednesday are demanding answers and accountability.
Friends describe 20-year-old Arif Sayed Faisal as a good-hearted and kind person. They told NBC10 Boston his family is grieving the loss of their only son.
Faisal studied computer engineering at UMass Boston.
“We just lost a 20-year-old kid who had a bright future in this country, who came here to have an American Dream but now his family is shattered,” said Emran Baaki, who knew him through events hosted by the Bangladeshi Association of New England.
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Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said officers responded to a 911 call from a resident who reported seeing a man jump out of the window of a neighboring apartment. The caller said that he appeared to be cutting himself with both a knife and broken window glass.
She said the preliminary investigation suggested that Faisal reportedly ran with the knife after seeing police, traveling through several blocks in the Cambridgeport neighborhood before officers attempted to verbally engage with him on Chestnut Street, requesting that he put the knife down. Police claim the man moved towards the officers while still in possession of the weapon. An officer discharged a “less-than-lethal” sponge round in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Police claim Faisal continued to advance toward officers with the knife. One officer fired their gun and shot Faisal. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital where he later died.
“Like many others, I have many questions about the circumstances of his death, particularly regarding the use of deadly force by the Cambridge police,” said Mumtahina Tashmi, who says she knew Faisal from the university. “This whole incident once again raises concerns about the ability to respond to crises involving mental illness, especially when dealing with minorities.”
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Friday, the Islamic Society of Boston held a prayer for Faisal and lead a discussion on supporting his family and each other through this difficult time.
“There is no support enough to bring his young life back to his family but whatever we have in our limit, we are trying to help the family,” said Tanvir Murad, general secretary of Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE), to the crowd. They were joined by Vice Mayor of Cambridge Alanna Mallon and the executive director of the Cambridge Police Review and Advisory Board, Brian Corr, who shared messages of support to the Bangladesh and Muslim communities grieving the loss.
"Our only son, Sayed Arif Faisal, who we lovingly called Prince, is no longer with us nor in this world," his parents said in a statement released by the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We are completely devastated and in disbelief that our son is gone. Prince was the most wonderful, loving, caring, generous, supportive, and deeply family-oriented person. 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 felt appreciated."
"He loved his friends, and had deep relationships with them, his family members, his cousins, and community members," his parents' statement continued. "He treated everyone with love, respect, and loyalty. Prince was a normal law-abiding citizen who had no record of any kind with law enforcement. He was never violent towards anyone. We want to know what happened and how this tragic event unfolded. We will cooperate with law enforcement and the Middlesex District Attorney’s office as they investigate to have an understanding of this devastating event."
Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow also visited the mosque to answer questions from community members but did not attend the meeting because she said emotions were still raw and it was decided to reschedule.
BANE is organizing a protest at Cambridge City Hall Monday afternoon.
"We just want justice. We want justice to prevail to make sure we get the right information. And if something went wrong in this process and something happened that shouldn’t happen we want justice for those actions,” said Baaki.
Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said she plans to meet with the family over the weekend.
In a joint statement published Wednesday, Mayor Siddiqui and City Manager Yi-An Huang said, "We are deeply saddened by the fatal officer-involved shooting that occurred today in Cambridge on January 4. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the deceased. The District Attorney’s Office will be conducting a thorough and transparent investigation with the full cooperation of the City and the Police Department. 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. This tragic loss of life impacts all of us across the City and we will issue information regarding a community meeting to process together early next week."