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Judge rules killing of Sayed Arif Faisal justified

**Trigger Warning: This article discusses topics of police brutality.**

In a recent ruling by the Middlesex District Court, a judge ruled that the Jan. 4 killing of former UMass Boston student Sayed Arif Faisal at the hands of police officer Liam McMahon was justified and therefore did not constitute a criminal act.

Police were originally called to the scene after receiving a call about a young person—later identified to be Faisal—who was shirtless and sitting on the ground in the alleyway of a nearby apartment building, attempting to harm himself with a large knife, according to the District Court Department’s report on the case. [1]. Upon seeing the officers, Faisal took off through the neighborhood—which included running past a school as well as a daycare—away from the police, with the knife.

Officers attempted to de-escalate the situation by calling out to Faisal and ordering him to drop the knife, but when Faisal did not react to these orders, the officers tried to mitigate the circumstances once again by using a “less lethal launcher” aimed at the thigh or buttocks.

According to the report, “The launcher could deploy a single hard sponge-like projectile intended to temporarily subdue an individual; being struck with it is akin to being hit by a 100-mph fastball.” [1]

After Faisal did not slow down following the impact of the launcher, as well as showcasing behaviors of harming himself or officers with the knife, Officer McMahon fired six shots, ultimately killing Faisal. Faisal was then transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries and later passed away.

In the ruling, Judge John Coffey wrote, “The Court finds that Officer McMahon’s decision to fire his weapon was objectively reasonable […] 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. Therefore, the Court finds that the fatal shooting of Sayed Faisal on January 4, 2023, was justified and does not constitute a criminal act.” [1]

Following Faisal’s death, several members of the community—from UMass Boston and beyond—gathered to protest the actions that took place on Jan. 4. Of these included a week-long protest outside Cambridge City Hall, [2] and a teach-in and memorial in the same location. [3]

The city of Cambridge has announced in a recent statement from Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui’s office that since Faisal’s death, they plan to establish a Community Safety Department, which will serve as an alternative police response with a focus on mental and behavioral health. They will also be reviewing Cambridge Police Department’s training programs and policies, increasing funding for mental health resources and implementing a program to require officers to wear body cameras. [4]

Despite these announcements and changes, those close to Faisal and the cause continue to protest and advocate for the firing of McMahon and justice for Faisal and his family members. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, a speakout and rally were hosted at Cambridge City Hall by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Bangladesh Association of New England and the Boston South Asian Coalition. Protestors have continuously called for the removal of McMahon since Faisal’s death, a sentiment that will likely continue following the ruling.


[1] District Court Department: Cambridge Division. (2023). REPORT ON THE INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF SAYED FAISAL IN CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS ON JANUARY 4,2023. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. https://www.middlesexda.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif4691/f/uploads/report_on_the_inquest_into_the_death_of_sayed_faisal.pdf

[2] Barejiya, K. (2023, Feb. 16). Boston community members seek justice for Sayed Arif Faisal. The Mass Media. https://umassmedia.com/15993/news/boston-community-members-seek-justice-for-sayed-arif-faisal/

[3] Cerone, J. (2023, March 31). Cambridge City Manager Huang is a coward who doesn’t care about Sayed Arif Faisal. The Mass Media. https://umassmedia.com/15869/opinions/cambridge-city-manager-huang-is-a-coward-who-doesnt-care-about-sayed-arif-faisal/

[4] City of Cambridge. (2023, Oct. 10). Sayed Arif Faisal Inquest Determination. Mayor’s Office News. https://www.cambridgema.gov/Departments/mayorsoffice/News/2023/10/sayedariffaisalinquestdetermination

About the Contributor
Katrina Sanville, Editor-In-Chief