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Updated: Mistrial for MacKenize Brisson: assault with a firearm on a government official case

By Charlotte Smith

A man involved in a 6-hour standoff with law enforcement in Dublin on November 21, 2017 charged with three felony counts of assault with a firearm on a government official stood trial this week. Judge Michael A. Stone presided over the case. The unique case has no historical example with similar happenings according to both the defense attorney and the district attorney. 

McKenzie Brisson (Contributed photo)

Attorney Harold “Butch” Pope was the defendant, Mackenzie Brisson’s, privately retained lawyer. The jury was made up of seven men and six women. In the courtroom gallery the Brisson family and friends sat on one side while law enforcement officials were seated on the other side. 

Bladen County Assistant District Attorney Quintin McGee was the lead prosecutor for the State of North Carolina with Attorney Shirley Smircic assisting him for the duration of the trial. 

MacKenzie was involved in an armed standoff with law enforcement which lasted 6 hours. During the standoff, MacKenize fired rounds of ammunition from inside his mother’s house on Paul Brisson Road in Dublin. The shots rang out for 30 to 45 minutes and eventually ceased according to several testimonies. Law enforcement used tear gas and sent a robot into the house to help evacuate MacKenzie from the house. The robot was unable to locate him inside the house, but he was eventually found resting inside the garage of the home with his dog, a gun and ammunition according to testimony.

There were no injuries reported during the standoff, however, MacKenzie did receive some lacerations to his face after being apprehended. Reports indicated MacKenzie was spiting and cursing and officers masked him and may have used their feet and elbows to subdue him during the arrest.

MacKenize did spend the night in the county hospital before being taken to jail the next day. 

The defense argued MacKenzie was heavily medicated, was suffering with depression and anxiety, and was only being destructive to himself. 

The State argued it was MacKenize’s rage and the fact he was not getting his way that caused the defendant to become violent. MacKenzie caused around $20,000 worth of damages to his mother’s house while shooting and jeopardized law enforcement officer’s lives around the property, according to reports. 

Testimony indicated MacKenize had taken more of his Klonopin, a prescribed medication for mental health, than his recommended dosage the day before the standoff. 

MacKenize testified to taking four of the Klonopin which was more than prescribed. 

He said, “I figured if two was good then four is great.”

MacKenzie said after taking the four pills he didn’t recall taking any more medication. However, his mother Melinda Brisson testified to 38 of the pills missing when she returned home just hours after MacKenzie admitted to taking more medication than prescribed on November 20th.  

She found her son at a table cleaning a pistol. Melinda said, “His eyes were glazed over.”

They both went to bed on the evening of November 20th without incident and Melinda went to work the next morning, November 21. Melinda testified the remaining pills were in her possession. 

When MacKenzie awoke on the morning of November 21 to find his pills were not there he started sending “nasty texts” to his mother according to testimonies. 

Melinda left work and asked McKenize’s grandfather, Nelson Brisson, to meet her at her home due to MacKenize’s text messages. When Melinda returned home, MacKenzie became violent pushing his grandfather after he was told he would have to go to a rehabilitation facility. 

Melinda called 911 while in the home with MacKenize and Nelson. 

Just minutes later, while Nelson and Melinda were outside the home with law enforcement shots were heard inside the home. 

“The boy’s gone crazy as hell. If you see him, spray him,” Nelson told the officer, according to testimony. 

Photo of law enforcement from day the event happened

McKenize testified to remembering grabbing an AR-15 assault rifle and shooting a mirror in the home. There were more guns used in the shooting by MacKenize according to several testimonies. 

“I don’t recall too much after that. It’s kinda like blurry pictures,” McKenzie said. 

“He is shooting walls not knowing what’s on the other side,” Attorney Butch Pope said during closing arguments. 

MacKenzie shot pictures of himself in the home, mirrors and walls. He wanted to shoot the house up to show “how broken his life was” because he had recently lost his license, his job, and his girlfriend and was dealing with anxiety and depression according to testimony and closing arguments from the defense. 

MacKenzie Brisson’s mugshot

“He has been over charged,” Pope said during his closing arguments. 

While on the stand MacKenzie stated he didn’t know law enforcement was there during the shooting and once he saw a law enforcement vehicle outside with its lights on he stopped firing, shut the door and the blinds, locked himself in the home and tried to go to sleep with his dog according to Pope’s closing. 

Deputies testified to seeing shots outside the home hitting the ground in front of them and calling out to MacKenize during the shooting on a PA system asking him to cease fire, but the shooting continued. 

“He was in a rage and he threatened the lives of those in the Bladen County Sheriff’s office,” McGee said during his closing arguments. 

“He closed the blinds and the door. Then he barricades himself in the home; that is an admission of guilt,” McGee explained. “He didn’t come out when he saw the police car with its lights on, he didn’t use his cell phone to surrender.”

MacKenize did this out of rage because, from his own admission, he wanted to show his mom how broken his life was, McGee outlined. 

“Drugs didn’t do this, MacKenzie Brisson’s rage did this,” McGee protested.  

“He hasn’t been held accountable. He has been welcomed back in his mother’s home. His mom had to send him back to rehab and he still has firearms in his home,” McGee reminded the jurors during his closing remarks. 

Since November 2017, MacKenzie has been in rehabilitation twice as well as received other mental health services according to earlier testimony and is currently taking two different prescriptions for his mental health. 

After both sides rested the judge gave the jury their instructions. The jury had an option to find MacKenzie guilty or not guilty of the three felony counts. The judge also explained to the jury they could find the defendant guilty or not guilty of an A1 misdemeanor, assault with a deadly weapon charge.

The jury deliberated for most of the day on Friday after the closing arguments were given. The jury members paused to ask for a review of the evidence and instructions. 

After lunch and an afternoon break the jurors continued to deliberate. The jury came out of deliberation close to 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon. 

Judge Stone read from a note given by the jury. “We the jury in the case of the State against MacKenzie Brisson are unable to come to an unanimous decision regarding both charges. Deadlock,”

The A1 misdemeanor has a maximum of 150 days in jail. The Class F felony crimes have a sentence of 10 to 41 months of jail time. 

Attorney Pope asked for a mistrial. Judge Stone gave the jury more instructions and sent them back to the jury room for more deliberations. 

The jury came back about 10 minutes after 5 p.m. and agreed, there was no reasonable possibility the jury could come to a unanimous decision about the case. 

The Judge declared the case a mistrial and moved the case to the September docket for case management. Case management will be held on September 9th and 10th. 

Attorney McGee polled the jury. He said they were split. Some of the members of the jury wanted to find MacKenzie guilty of the felony charges and others wanted to convict him of the misdemeanor charge and dismiss the felony charges.

The decision to either retry the case or offer a plea will be discussed in September during case management according to Attorney McGee. 

Related article:

Update: Bladen County Sheriff gives update on shooter in Dublin

Opinion: 6 examples of how a local desperado’s trial exemplifies changes needed to end shootings



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