By Charlotte Smith
Update on 8/2/22 – MacKenzie Brisson was found not guilty the last week of July 2022 by a jury of his peers on all three felony counts of assault with a firearm on a government official.
The first jury trial against MacKenzie Brisson was in August of 2019. The jury agreed; there was no reasonable possibility the jury could come to a unanimous decision about the case. Therefore, the charges against Brisson went to case management. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district attorney’s office held a second jury trial against Brisson last month, July 2022. The second jury came back with a not guilty verdict. MacKenzie Brisson was found not guilty the last week of July 2022 by a jury of his peers on all three felony counts of assault with a firearm on a government official.
Published on August 2, 2019 – Previous article:
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. According to both the defense attorney and the district attorney, the unique case has no historical example with similar happenings.
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, MacKenzie 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. The robot was unable to locate him inside the house. Still, 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 spitting and cursing, and officers masked him and may have used their feet and elbows to subdue him during the arrest.
MacKenzie did spend the night in the county hospital before being taken to jail the next day.
The defense argued MacKenzie was heavily medicated, suffering with depression and anxiety, and was only being destructive.
The State argued it was MacKenzie’s rage and the fact that he was not getting his way that caused the defendant to become violent. According to reports, MacKenzie caused around $20,000 worth of damages to his mother’s house while shooting and jeopardized law enforcement officers’ lives around the property.
Testimony indicated MacKenzie had taken more of his Klonopin, prescribed medication for mental health, than his recommended dosage the day before the standoff.
MacKenzie testified to taking four of the Klonopin, which was more than he was 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 20.
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 20 without incident, and Melinda went to work the next morning, November 21. Melinda testified the remaining pills were in her possession.
According to testimonies, when MacKenzie awoke on the morning of November 21 to find his pills were not there, he started sending “nasty texts” to his mother.
Melinda left work and asked McKenzie’s grandfather, Nelson Brisson, to meet her at her home due to MacKenzie’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 MacKenzie and Nelson.
Just minutes later, while Nelson and Melinda were outside the home with law enforcement, shots were heard coming from inside the home.
“The boy’s gone crazy as hell. If you see him, spray him,” Nelson told the officer, according to testimony.
McKenzie 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 MacKenzie, 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.
“He has been overcharged,” 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 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 MacKenzie during the shooting on a PA system asking him to ceasefire, 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.”
MacKenzie 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 a 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.
The jury was polled, according to Attorney McGee. 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.
According to Attorney McGee, the decision to either retry the case or offer a plea will be discussed in September of 2019 during case management.