The father of a mentally ill man who was fatally shot by police says he wishes he could have helped avert a tragedy that should have been the apparent result of the actions of officers who stormed his son’s home.
Mark McKenzie’s son, Todd, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was shot three times on July 31, 2019 by police who visited his home on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
Testifying at an inquest on Friday, McKenzie said police should have predicted the deadly outcome of the raid because his son’s psychosis could quickly escalate by simply pressing the right buttons.
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“It was just one of those blind Freddy factors. It seemed so obvious that if someone broke into the house he would not survive,” McKenzie told the Lidcombe coroner.
He said his son suffered from delusions and often complained that people had broken into his house, for example to steal his keys or inject him with poison.
After brandishing a knife in the street and making threatening remarks to neighbors during a psychotic bout, police surrounded Todd’s home in Taree.
The siege, which lasted several hours, ended when police searched the house and Todd allegedly attacked them with a knife before being fatally shot by officers.
McKenzie said his son felt “terrorized” at that moment and implored officers he had done nothing wrong by referring to his grandfather’s service as an Australian soldier.
“His whole motivation was to convince her that he was a good guy,” McKenzie said.
“He turns against them and calls them terrorists because they terrorize him. And I think they were too. I honestly think they were.”
McKenzie said he didn’t know how serious the situation had become, although he spoke to his son on the phone during the siege because he seemed to be in control of himself during their conversations.
He said he felt “taken aback” by police for failing to tell him his son had a serious mental illness and told the court he could have helped.
“The whole purpose of my testimony is to convince people here that I actually could have helped the police,” he said.
“I’ve dealt with it before. The whole family was struggling with the delusional issue about his house.”
He criticized the police’s “one-size-fits-all” approach, which involves a full tactical response to his son and which has also been used in dealing with hostage situations, murderers and bank robberies.
The sheer scale of the police presence at the Taree home suggested Todd believed he was fighting for his life, the court learned.
“He thought this might be the end,” McKenzie said.
Todd’s family gathered for the court hearing on Friday. She wore t-shirts with the deceased’s name and the slogan, “No one deserves to die just because they can’t conform to it.”
The hearing continues.
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