On Wednesday, January 4th, Cambridge police shot and killed Sayed Faisal, a 20-year-old college student and the only child of Bangladeshi immigrants. While the investigation is ongoing, it appears that Sayed was in the midst of a mental health crisis - a neighbor called police reporting a man jumping out of a broken window and inflicting self-harm with a knife and broken glass. The effort to stop self-harm ended in Sayed being fatally shot by police.
The Arlington Human Rights Commission would like to express its deepest condolences to Sayed Faisal’s family, friends, and community. We stand with other mental health and minority advocates in finding outcomes like these unacceptable. Despite police being trained in de-escalation techniques, less-than-lethal weapons, and tactics meant to prevent the need for shootings, mental health crises and a disproportionate number of incidents involving BIPOC individuals still result in fatal police shootings.
This needs to change, and the change needs to be accelerated. There is no justice without accountability, and we demand a prompt, independent, and completely transparent investigation. Corrective steps must be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Local authorities need to invest in the proper training and resources to address mental health crises, including dedicated unarmed experts to help deal with such incidents.
Even though the problems are systemic, and despite the fact that news coverage has been woefully inadequate, we must not relegate Sayed to an incident report or a statistic. It is important to remember that Sayed Faisal was an individual with a life and a story. Sayed was a student at UMass Boston. “Prince,” as he was called by his parents, was described as a caring, generous, deeply family-oriented person who loved to play sports with his friends and always made sure that those around him felt appreciated. He had no history of violence and was a law-abiding citizen with no police record. One of his professors spoke about Sayed’s activist mindset and his ideas to create a 7-point program for a more inclusive experience for immigrant students, to provide legal consultation for undocumented students, and to create a scholarship program for immigrant students who lacked resources.
As part of his class work, Sayed wrote that “Activism is a means to protest to make a change in society to correct wrong-doings”. We should all try to heed these words and work to ensure that mental health crisis episodes do not end in fatal police shootings.
Ways you can help:
Support Arif Sayed Faisal’s family
Write to to your local representative to talk about this incident and police shootings
Arlington values equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are committed to building a community where everyone is heard, respected, and protected.
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