Inquest will examine Durham police killing of Michael MacIsaac
Michael MacIsaac’s family hopes the coroner’s inquest is an opportunity to learn more about what happened, but it also means they’ll have to relive a painful chapter in their history.
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A coroner’s inquest will probe the circumstances surrounding the death of Michael MacIsaac, who was shot dead by Durham Regional Police on an Ajax street in December 2013.
The inquest, announced Wednesday, almost exactly three years after Michael’s death, will begin March 20 and is expected to last two weeks.
For MacIsaac’s large and close-knit family, the inquest is both an opportunity to learn more about what happened, but also means they’ll have to relive a painful chapter in their family’s history.
“I don’t think we can really prepare for this, even though we knew the inquest was coming,” said Michael’s sister, Joanne MacIsaac. “This is an endless cycle. What we’re dealt with is an endless, torturous cycle of pain and heartbreak.”
Among the duties of an inquest jury is to make recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future — a task that has faced criticism because the recommendations are non-binding.
But Joanne said she hopes the inquest into Michael’s death will be different, because it will begin around the same time as Justice Michael Tulloch is set to deliver his report and recommendations on police oversight bodies in Ontario, including the Special Investigations Unit, which probes police-involved deaths.
“Because of that, I hope that the jury recommendations that come from Michael’s inquest are actually given more weight,” she said.
Michael, 47, was walking along an Ajax street the morning of Dec. 2, 2013, reportedly holding a table leg, which his family has disputed. He was confronted by police, and fatally shot by Const. Brian Taylor.
The MacIsaacs believe he had had an epileptic seizure, and left his house naked after his wife Marianne was unable to keep him inside.
The family, originally from Codroy Valley, Nfld., has spent a considerable amount of time and money conducting their own investigation into Michael’s death, particularly after they learned the SIU declined to press charges in the case.
They’ve requested EMS reports, had an independent autopsy conducted, consulted with ballistic experts, asked the Ministry of Health to investigate Michael’s transportation to hospital, complained to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, wrote to politicians, and met with SIU and Attorney General staff.
They also have a 911 call from the scene which they and their lawyer say contradicts the officers’ notes that they tried to de-escalate the situation before Michael was shot twice. The MacIsaacs have vigorously disputed the SIU’s findings in Michael’s case.
“We are entitled to answers, the public are entitled to answers, answers that we did not get from the SIU or the OIPRD, and perhaps this (inquest) process, as painful as it is going to be, will help us get some further answers,” Joanne said.
The inquest, which will take place at the Forensic Services and Coroners Complex in North York, is expected to hear from 18 witnesses. Generally, police officers involved in a death are among those called to the stand.