The Ontario SIU (Special Investigations Unit) has concluded the investigation into the controversial shooting of Michael MacIsaac.
In a media release, Director of the SIU, Tony Loparco, indicated, “There are no reasonable grounds to charge a Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) Officer with a criminal offence in connection with the shooting and death of 47-year-old Michael MacIsaac on December 2 & 3 respectively.”
The MacIsaac shooting was extensively covered by reporter Jennifer Pagliaro and published on The Star.com, Canada’s largest online news website. Pagliaro’s articles expressed concern and clearly questioned the justification for the use of deadly force in the shooting.
The Police Insider encouraged readers to resist the urge to rush to judgement.
In fact, the inflammatory reports published in connection with the shooting prompted The Police Insider to conduct in-depth analysis of the deadly force encounter to offer the public a balanced, dispassionate evaluation of the tragic shooting.
As detailed as Pagliaro’s reporting was, a glaring omission in her story was the lack of any information regarding the verbal commands the Police made to MacIssac in the moments preceding the shooting. The story left the impression the Police may have exited their cruiser cars and simply opened fire on MacIsaac, a highly unlikely scenario. In reality, Police Officers are trained to use verbal commands in violent confrontations. The omission was a significant one and demonstrated a lack of understanding of Police deadly force encounters.
I find it interesting that Pagliaro’s report into the SIU’s findings started with the words;
“Drop the weapon. Those may have been the last words Michael MacIsaac, 47, ever heard.”
It seems she may have gained a better understanding of the significance of the Police verbal commands given to MacIsaac before the shooting.
Police Insider analysis defined a deadly force threat as a confrontation that requires three (3) specific elements; a) Weapon, b) Intent and c) Delivery System – ie: the subject must be capable of using the weapon against someone.
In this case, it was clear the only element in question was Delivery system.
Issues concerning Delivery System were identified in The Police Insider as follows;
“The distance between the contact Officer and MacIsaac will be an extremely important part of the puzzle. For a deadly threat to exist, the Officer must have had the reasonable belief that MacIsaac had the ability to inflict death or grievous bodily harm to him or any other Officer or civilian in his proximity. It appears evident from the report that MacIsaac had stepped off the curb and was moving towards the Police when he was shot.”
Director Loparco addressed Delivery System in the SIU findings;
“Narrowing in on the circumstances that immediately prevailed at the time of the shooting, Mr. MacIsaac was moving in the officer’s direction brandishing a metal patio table leg measuring about a metre in length. This is consistent with descriptions provided by a number of civilian witnesses and officers. The evidence also indicates that Mr. MacIsaac was in close proximity to the subject officer at the time that the officer discharged his firearm. This distance is variously described by the witnesses within a range of about five to seven feet. A short video clip taken by one of the eyewitnesses of what appears to be the immediate aftermath of the shooting depicts the subject officer within the range described by witnesses.”
It’s clear from the SIU findings that all three essential elements required to constitute a deadly force threat existed in this case.
That leaves one further critical element identified in the original Police Insider report;
“Did the Officer have the reasonable belief that he, or anyone under his protection, was in danger of suffering death or grievous bodily harm?”
The Police Insider report stressed that conclusions regarding justification for the use of deadly force could not be made until a detailed interview with the contact Officer was completed.
The SIU report confirms the subject Officer consented to an interview and articulated the basis for his use of deadly force. After reviewing the investigative findings the SIU Director came to the following conclusion;
“In the final analysis, the subject officer was in the lawful discharge of his duties when he was confronted by Mr. MacIsaac, armed with a metal table leg approximately one metre in length who was not complying with commands to stop and drop his weapon. In the circumstances, the officer’s fear for his life seems a reasonable one to have harboured, as was his belief that lethal force was necessary to preserve himself.”
Those findings are not likely going to sit well with MacIsaac’s wife Marianne or other members of the MacIsaac family who are left to try to put the pieces of their lives back together. Could we really expect them to embrace the SIU findings? The magnitude of their loss is both profound and immeasurable.
That brings me back to the introductory sentence in my original story.
“There is little doubt Police involved shootings are some of the most misunderstood, controversial issues that face Law Enforcement.”
That understanding is not likely going to get any better when the journalists who report on these stories have extremely limited understandings of Police deadly force encounters.
Pagliaro drove that point home even further with a paragraph in her SIU findings story that put an interesting slant on her article;
“A Star series by Laura Kane revealed that in the last five years people with knives have harmed only four Toronto Police officers, while 18 people with what are considered “edged weapons’ were shot by police. Ten of them died.”
Pagliaro’s angle and choice of words leave little doubt regarding her ability to provide objective analysis of these tragedies.
“In the last five years people with knives have harmed only four Toronto Police Officers while 18 people with what are considered “edged weapons’ were shot by police. Ten of them died.”
“Only four,” Toronto cops were harmed.