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Officer who shot and killed Michael MacIsaac to testify as inquest begins

MacIsaac's sister and wife gave emotional testimony on first day of coroner's inquest

Joanne MacIsaac coroners inquest

Joanne MacIsaac said she's nervous to face the Durham police officer who fired the two fatal shots that led to her brother Michael's death. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

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The Durham police officer who fired two fatal shots at Michael MacIsaac on a cold December morning nearly four years ago is expected to testify at an ongoing coroner's inquest this week. 

Const. Brian Taylor shot MacIsaac some 12 seconds after stepping out of his cruiser in a suburban Ajax neighbourhood on Dec. 2, 2013. MacIsaac, his family asserts, was struggling through an epilepsy-related episode that saw him run into the street naked and harass passing drivers after a physical confrontation involving MacIsaac, his wife and her sister inside their home. 

Taylor was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by two earlier reviews, one by the province's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, and the other by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. His lawyer told CBC Toronto he will testify at some point later this week, likely on Thursday. 

Michael MacIsaac's wedding photo

Michael MacIsaac and his wife, Marianne Madjarian, on their wedding day in 2008. (Supplied by MacIsaac family)

The officer was not present Monday for the first day of the coroner's inquest into 47-year-old's death. The five-person jury of four men and one woman heard from MacIsaac's sister, Joanne MacIsaac, and his wife, Marianne Madjarian, among others. 

More Tasers not the answer, sister says

Holding a large photo of her brother taken in the years before his death, Joanne MacIsaac explained his history of epileptic seizures and the prolonged states of confusion that followed them. 

She also explained that she had spoken to her brother two days before he was shot and that he seemed in good spirits. 

"The last thing he said to me was, 'I love you'," she recalled. 

Michael MacIsaac family

Members of Michael MacIsaac's family and supporters arrive at the inquest Monday morning. The family disputes the version of events presented by the Special Investigations Unit. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Then MacIsaac made a plea to the jury: no more recommendations that police forces increase their use of Tasers as a response to police-involved deaths. 

"In my opinion, the people who are being shot and killed by police are not the people shooting back, they are the vulnerable sector of society," she said. 

"I know additional Taser use comes out in all these inquests. I don't think that's the answer," she continued, explaining that if her brother was in the throes of epileptic seizure, electric currents were already moving through his body. 

She added that recommendations on de-escalation should include training officers to, in some scenarios, move more slowly and give more time to someone who is not emoting or responding to police.

Marianne Madjarian Michael MacIsaac coroner's inquest

Marianne Madjarian fought back tears as she spoke to reporters about her husband and the troubling circumstances of his death. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

"I know it's difficult to control a situation. I would think if police officers would approach a situation more slowly, it would give you time and space to de-escalate," MacIsaac said.

Speaking with reporters after her testimony, MacIsaac said she is nervous to face Taylor. The family has seen some photos of him, but never spoke to him or saw him in person during the previous reviews. 

'Not a day that goes by that I don't suffer this guilt'

During her own testimony, MacIsaac's wife described a man struggling to come to terms with his illness who loved his family dearly and had no history of violence or confounding incidents like the one on the morning he was shot.

That day, MacIsaac had informed his employer that he was too ill to go to work. Madjarian said it was clear the day before that he was unwell.

"He had a fever. By noon that day he did suffer a seizure, I found him contorted," she told the inquest. 

Sammy Yatim mother

Sahar Bahadi, the mother Sammy Yatim - who was shot and killed by Toronto police aboard a street car in July 2013 - lent her support to the MacIsaac's on Monday. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Shortly before 10 a.m. on Monday, she was shocked when her husband, an otherwise "very modest" man, appeared in her office completely naked and insisting he had to leave.

After she tried to restrain him, there was a physical confrontation. Madjarian's sister was also in the house, and she too ended up involved in the skirmish. 

Eventually he was able to break free and take off running into the cold morning. It was Madjarian's sister who made the initial call to 911. 

'He needed help'

According to police, MacIsaac tried to stop multiple motorists in the street. At some point, he smashed a patio table into the door of a home and then armed himself with two of table's broken legs, police allege. 

MacIsaac's family disputes the claim that he was still carrying a table leg when he was shot by Taylor. 

Madjarian told the inquest that she didn't follow her husband into the street because she was experiencing extreme anxiety, nausea and trembling.

Michael MacIsaac running

A photo of Michael MacIsaac taken by a witness on the morning he was killed by police, outside of his Ajax home. (Supplied by MacIsaac family)

"I wasn't in the condition to drive. I was in shock. But I love my husband dearly and there's not a day that goes by that I don't suffer this guilt."

But she firmly maintained that her husband did nothing to warrant being shot by police.

"He was in a mental health crisis, which is apparent when you're running around naked on a cold morning. He needed help. He was not a criminal," Madjarian said.

The inquest is expected to hear from 18 witnesses over the course of the week. It continues Tuesday. 

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