Judge rules Cambridge police officer was justified in fatal shooting of 20-year-old college student

A judge has found that a Cambridge police officer was acting reasonably when he opened fire and killed a 20-year-old college student wielding a knife in January after an inquest.

In a report released by the Middlesex District Attorney’s office Thursday, a judge wrote that officer Liam McMahon’s decision to shoot Sayed Arif Faisal was justified because it was reasonable for the officer to assume he was in danger of being injured or killed.

Police were called to a Cambridgeport neighborhood on January 4 when Faisal was seen injuring himself with a long ‘machete type’ knife. Faisal initially fled when the police arrived, leading them on a long foot chase, officials said.

“Faisal never responded to the officers’ commands to stop and drop the knife, and Faisal refused to engage with any of the officers’ attempts to communicate with him. Faisal was not subdued or seemingly affected by the less-lethal shot, and instead turned and walked directly toward Officer McMahon while holding the knife out towards him. At the moment that Officer McMahon fired his weapon, a reasonable law enforcement officer in the same position would reasonably believe that he, along with his fellow officers and others, were in imminent danger of being seriously injured or killed,” the judge wrote in his decision.

“My condolences have been and remain with the family of Sayed Arif Faisal and those who continue to feel the profound pain of his passing,” Ryan said in a statement.

Cambridge Police Commissioner Christine Elow and her department continue to mourn the loss of Faisal. “There is no doubt that this is a tragedy for our entire community. My heart goes out to Faisal’s family and everyone who has been impacted,” said Elow.

This report also outlines how police officers can face incredibly complex, difficult, and dangerous situations.

“No officer ever wants to be put in the position where they have to use fatal force, and if it happens it stays with each of us forever,” said Elow. “This tragedy has impacted our entire department.”

Faisal’s parents, Sayed Mujibullah and Mosammat Shaheda released a statement several days after the incident:

“Our only son, Sayed Arif Faisal, who we lovingly called Prince, is no longer with us nor in this world. 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. 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.”

Sayed Mujibullah and Mosammat Shaheda

The DA’s office says they accept the findings of the court and have filed a certificate with Middlesex Superior Court to close the case.

The inquest, which allowed both parties to present evidence to a judge was conducted from May 22 to May 25, 2023.

Prior to December 18, the Middlesex DA’s officer investigated police officer-involved deaths internally but then implemented a policy of requesting a judicial inquest for every instance.

According to the DA’s office, an inquest is “a judicial proceeding in which the Court investigates the circumstances surrounding a death and determines whether the death was the result of an unlawful act.” While closed to the public, the involved officer and the family of the deceased individual are allowed to participate in the proceedings as permitted by the court.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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