Michael MacIsaac was 'actively resisting' help after police shooting, says officer at scene
'I'm just trying to help him,' says Const. Mark Brown, 1st officer to respond to 911 call
A Durham Regional Police officer who was the first to respond to a 911 call involving Michael MacIsaac on a cold December morning nearly four years ago told a coroner's inquest on Wednesday the 47-year-old was "actively resisting" help as he lay on the ground dying.
Const. Mark Brown testified about the moments leading up to MacIsaac's death, saying he tried to stabilize him. MacIsaac was fatally shot twice by another police officer. Three officers responded to the call.
"I remember him saying stuff, but I couldn't understand what he was saying," Brown said. "The only thing I understood when performing first aid, was MacIsaac said 'pain.'"
A state of mental distress
MacIsaac, his family says, was struggling through an epilepsy-related psychological episode that saw him run into an Ajax street naked and harass passing drivers. This incident followed a physical confrontation involving MacIsaac, his wife and her sister inside their home.
The 14-year police veteran, who was on patrol in the area on Dec. 2, 2013, said, "given there were numerous calls coming in, an escalation of violence of banging on windows, there was no time to come up with a plan."
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Const. Brian Taylor shot MacIsaac about 12 seconds after stepping out of his cruiser.
Brown claims he didn't see Taylor fire two shots in rapid succession, noting he was startled by the sound. He said his gun was in his holster and he looked over to see who had fired.
"My tunnel vision was on Mr. MacIsaac," he asserted, adding the Ajax man was gripping a metal table leg in his right hand when he fell to the ground.
According to both officers' testimony during cross-examination, MacIsaac reportedly rushed at Taylor while wielding the metal object as a weapon and screaming. Brown said he was unable to make out what MacIsaac said as he ran at a pace that was faster than a jog.
'I'm just trying to help him'
Both accounts match the official version released by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, the police watchdog that cleared Taylor of criminal wrongdoing. Taylor was also cleared by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
I can't imagine what was going through Michael's head, and know the pain must have been horrible. But to tell him after the fact, we are here to help you? It's ridiculous, ridiculous to me.- Joanne MacIsaac, sister
But the 94-centimetre, 0.45-kilogram piece of curved hollow metal has become a critical piece of evidence in the case, with several of the 18 witnesses testifying they didn't notice anything in his hand when police opened fire on him.
Investigators found it near the pool of blood that marked where MacIsaac allegedly fell to the ground and stopped moving on that chilly morning. It was in the middle of the street.
Brown says this is because he removed the metal object from a naked MacIsaac, tossing the alleged weapon to his "west-side" before reportedly attempting first aid.
"I'm just trying to help him," Brown said
'Why didn't you help him before?'
Roy Wellington, the family's lawyer, questioned Brown about his assertion that MacIsaac resisted help.
"Does it strike you as odd that someone would not want to be touched after being shot by the same people?" Wellington asked in his cross-examination.
Members of MacIsaac's family were shaken by the officer's version of events.
"I can't imagine what was going through Michael's head, and know the pain must have been horrible," MacIsaac sister, Joanne, said. "But to tell him after the fact, we are here to help you? It's ridiculous, ridiculous to me.
"Why didn't you help him before?"
After hearing this account, family members told CBC Toronto they felt extremely frustrated.
"His narrative of what happened has got to be, in my opinion, fabricated," MacIsaac's sister said outside the courthouse. "To say Michael was actively resisting when he's naked, cold on the ground and you're pushing in on his abdomen after he has been shot, to use the phrase 'he's actively resisting,' my god what is the matter with these people?"
Mental health training not enough: Brown
MacIsaac's sister and wife, Marianne Madjarian, have claimed that his history of epileptic seizures and the prolonged states of confusion that followed them often led him to behave oddly and erratically.
"He was in a mental health crisis, which is apparent when you're running around naked on a cold morning," Madjarian said during previous testimony. "He needed help. He was not a criminal."
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Both firmly maintain the husband and brother did nothing to warrant his death.
Another lawyer, Anita Szigeti, with Toronto's Empowerment Council, a legal firm which represents clients with mental health or addiction issues, also cross-examined Brown and confirmed he had only a week of mental health training a decade before the incident.
His training with Durham police consisted of a program organized through various mental health organizations.
When questioned by one of the five jurors on the inquest, as to whether he felt this training course was sufficient, Brown responded: "No."
Testimony from Durham police's mental health unit is slated to continue Thursday morning.
With files from Shannon Martin