James MacDonald

November 1999

by his mother, Toni MacDonald

My husband Jim and I were blessed with two boys, Jon and Jimmy. Jon was two years older than Jimmy and, from the day we brought his baby brother home from the hospital, they became best friends and remained so until the day Jimmy was murdered.

All through school, Jimmy was active in sports. He was named all league quarterback his senior year, all league point guard in basketball and was selected to the All Star Baseball Team. He took pride in his body and kept in excellent condition. Jimmy was an extremely social and loveable person and he never met a person he did not like, or at least, that person never knew he did not like them. All his friends thought they were his best friend as he treated them like it.

He was recruited as a reserve officer with the Compton, CA Police Department in 1991 while still attending Long Beach State College. In 1992, he became the only family member to graduate from college. He worked the riots in East LA in ’92 and would call on Jon, sometimes in the middle of the night, to let him know what was going on with all the looting, fires and all-out chaos. At that time, Jon said he would get so mad at being awakened like that, but would give anything to have his brother to be able to call now.

To our great relief, he made it through this unharmed. Jimmy wanted to become a full-time officer and because Compton did not have the resources at the time to hire anymore full-time officers, he sent out resumes. One day his father asked him which department would be his first choice to work, just knowing he’d say his home town of Santa Rosa where we live. Much to our surprise, he said he would really like to stay in Compton. Jimmy was hired by the San Jose Police Department to become a full-time officer.

On February 22, 1993, with just 15 minutes left on his shift, he and his partner Officer Kevin Burrell made a traffic stop. This stop would be the last one either officer would ever make. The driver, Regis Deon Thomas, a felon with a gun, decided rather than get caught with a concealed weapon and go back to prison, he would kill two police officers.

After shooting each officer once, and while they were disabled and lying in the street, he stood over each of them and put three more bullets into their bodies. There were eyewitnesses to the shooting and, after an extensive manhunt and countless hours of detective work, the police were closing in on making an arrest. Regis Thomas, rather than be taken by the police, called a local radio station and made arrangements to surrender there.

After a trial that lasted 13 weeks, he was found guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances and was given the death penalty. He is now sitting in a cell in San Quentin, waiting fro his appeals to start.