Judicial Inquest Report in Cambridge Fatal Police Officer-Involved Shooting Released

WOBURN – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan has announced that, following an inquest, Judge John Coffey has issued a Report regarding the death of 20-year-old Sayed Arif Faisal. Faisal died after being shot by Cambridge Police Officer Liam McMahon on January 4, 2023, in Cambridge. The inquest was conducted between May 22-25, 2023.

The Court heard sworn testimony from twenty-nine (29) witnesses, received fifty-three (53) exhibits into evidence and conducted an in-person viewing of the scene. In his Report, Judge Coffey found that:

“…Officer McMahon’s decision to fire his weapon was objectively reasonable, within the meaning of [Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-397 (1989)]. Officers had been pursuing Faisal through Cambridge streets for approximately ten minutes, during which time Faisal was cutting himself with a knife with a foot-long blade. 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.

Therefore, the Court finds that the fatal shooting of Sayed Faisal on January 4, 2023, was justified and does not constitute a criminal act.”

District Attorney Ryan has accepted the findings of the Court and has subsequently filed a certificate in the Superior Court which closes this matter.

District Attorney Ryan’s Office has also forwarded the Report to the Cambridge Police Department for whatever internal review and action the Department may deem appropriate.

District Attorney Ryan stated, “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.”

In the past, police officer-involved deaths that occurred within Middlesex County were investigated internally by the District Attorney’s Office. However, in December, 2018, District Attorney Ryan decided, after much consideration, to replace that policy with a practice of requesting a judicial inquest in every police officer-involved death. In her view, this practice is appropriate given the particularly sensitive nature of these tragic events.

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. Although the proceedings themselves are closed to the public, both the officer involved and family of the decedent (with their counsel) are allowed to be present, to hear the evidence and to participate as permitted by the Court. At the conclusion of the inquest, the Court must issue detailed written findings which are then sent to the District Attorney, who, in turn, decides whether to go forward with criminal charges in light of those findings. District Attorney Ryan’s use of inquests serves at least three (3) important policy goals: (1) ensuring that conclusions of fact and law are made by an impartial third-party legal expert and factfinder (i.e., a sitting Judge); (2) allowing for a comprehensive and rigorous examination of the evidence, which is received from live witnesses, who are under oath and subject to cross-examination, as well as exhibits received by the Court; and, (3) providing for robust transparency since the decedent’s family attend the proceedings, and, following the conclusion of the inquest, the Court’s Report and the transcripts automatically become public. In addition, District Attorney Ryan elects to publish all additional records, photos and audio recordings that are allowed by statute to be disclosed. To that end, please view those materials on District Attorney Ryan’s website.

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