The 125-officer Compton Police Department grieved for two fellow officers who were gunned down following a vehicle stop on Feb. 22, 1993. Reserve Officer James Wayne Mac Donald, 24, and Officer Kevin Michael Burrell, 29, were the first officers in the department to die in the line of duty.
At some time between 11 p.m. and 11:15 p.m., the officers were answering an unrelated disturbance call when they spotted a “possible traffic violation of suspicious circumstances,” and decided to make a traffic stop on a customized red Chevrolet pick-up truck traveling westbound on Rosecrans Avenue from Wilmington Avenue. The pick-up truck was pulled over and stopped on Rosecrans Avenue just east of Dwight Avenue.
Based on witness statements after the event, Officers Burrell and Mac Donald approached the red truck and the suspect exited the driver’s door. Reportedly, both officers were attempting to physically restrain the suspect, each officer was attempting to control the suspect’s arms by placing them behind his back. During the struggle the suspect was able to arm himself from his person with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and began shooting at both officers.
Upon falling to the ground, officers still received gunfire from the suspect. The suspect re-entered the truck and fled the scene.
The Police Department received a number of telephone calls from citizens who reported hearing shots being fired and/or observing two uniformed officers “down” in the street in the area of Rosecrans and Dwight Avenues. Compton patrol officers quickly arrived on the scene and observed both officers suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to their heads and bodies laying motionless in the street near the front of their patrol car, their service weapons were still holstered and secured and their backup weapons still in their pockets.
The information was broadcast over the radio and shortly dozens of patrol units from various agencies converged on the location. An intensive manhunt for the suspect was conducted throughout the night and days following. The suspect a member of a notorious Los Angeles gang known as “Bounty Hunters”, was eventually identified.
Through news media coverage he became aware that he was wanted by the Compton Police in connection with the murders of Officers Burrell and Mac Donald, he arranged with the news media to surrender himself to a television reporter, who subsequently surrendered the suspect to authorities.
The suspect who was on parole was subsequently tried and convicted of the murders, he received the death penalty and is presently awaiting his appeal.
Kevin Burrell was a 6-foot-6-inch gentle giant known for his basketball prowess and easy manner as a policeman, friends and fellow officers said.
Lt. Gary Anderson groomed Burrell in both passions. Anderson’s voice broke several times as he talked about his friend. “I’ve known him since he was a kid around here – when he was 15 and an Explorer Scout.”
Burrell would fill out reports at the counter for eight hours and then work another eight hours accompanying Anderson as he worked patrol on the graveyard shift.
When Burrell became an officer in 1988, Anderson coached him on the Compton P.D. basketball team that competed in the Police Olympics.
Burrell, the fifth of seven children, was a starting center for the Compton High School basketball team in 1981, when the team finished second in the Moore League.
He went on to California State University/Dominguez Hills, where he was a captain of the basketball team and a student escort for the campus police.
“I watched him grow up professionally,” said Michael Lordanich, police chief at CSUDH. “He was as kind a person as you would want to meet. He was a gentle giant.”
Burrell attended CSUDH from 1981 through 1985, studying public administration and criminal justice. He then went to work for the Compton P.D. as a civilian for several years before becoming a sworn officer.
As a police officer “he always had time to chit-chat with you. It made you feel like he was your own son or father” said Gladys Russell, a Compton resident since 1956.
“He wasn’t the kind to throw you up against a car. He would have long talks with young people in trouble,” she said.
The day before he died, Burrell, who was single, talked with a high school chum about sports, his 3-year-old son, Kevin Jr., and the city where he grew up and still lived. “He knew everybody. He felt safe,” said Greg Woods.
Feb. 23rd would’ve been the last shift for Compton Reserve Officer James Mac Donald. Officer Mac Donald had only about 15 minutes left on his last shift the night he was shot. The athletic 24-year-old was on his way to San Jose, where he was to enter the San Jose P.D. Academy.
“It’s sad. I sit back and think, could we have started the academy class a month early?” said San Jose Police Sgt. Gary Bertelson, who heads up recruitment for the department. Mac Donald was one of 60 candidates selected out of 240 applicants for the l,250-officer department.
Mac Donald grew up in Santa Rosa and attended Piner High School, a private school in that city. In 1987, when he was a senior, MacDonald was the quarterback and led the football team to a 9-1 season.
Mac Donald, who was single, continued to play sports, mostly adult league basketball and softball.
He briefly attended California State University Sacramento, before coming to California State University Long Beach, where he was close to graduating with a degree in speech communications and criminal justice.
Mac Donald was sitting in a criminal justice class at CSULB when he was recruited as a reserve for the Compton P.D., said Lt. Flores. That was June 1, 1991.
Reserve officers go through training and then volunteer for 16 hours per month and are paid an hourly wage for additional hours worked.
“‘Jimmy Mac’ (as Mac Donald was known) was a very fine reserve officer. He worked a lot and learned quickly,” said Sgt. Michael Markey, who is president of the Compton Police Officers Association.
“His department thought very highly of him,” Bertelson said. “He was only a reserve, but he was putting in a full weeks work, which is above and beyond the requirement.
“He was so looking forward to leaving and starting his new job,” said police Officer Mark Lobel, a close friend of Mac Donald’s.
At the site of the killing, an impromptu memorial to the slain officers was established on a small patch of grass beside the curb. Also scattered about Compton are copies of a poem written by a local bus driver.
It reads in part: “You can never replace Officers Mac Donald and Burrell. God knows the dangers of doing what’s right.”
Mac Donald was a star athletic in high school and had won numerous awards for his athletic ability. He enjoyed all sports. Each year in Mac Donald’s hometown of Santa Rosa, Ca. The Jimmy Mac Donald Memorial Softball Tournament is held to raise money for a scholarship fund set up by three of Mac Donald’s friends. The Jimmy MacDonald Peace Officer Scholarship has been established at the Exchange Bank’s Coddingtown branch, 1300 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa 95401. The scholarship is awarded to someone attending the police academy.
You never get over the loss of a child, but knowing that our sons name is on the wall in Sacramento, Washington, D.C., The Miami Police Hall of Fame, and the wall in Whittier, California, means to us, he will never be forgotten, said his parents.
Compton Police Officers Association has created a trust fund to help provide for the families of the two slain officers.
Donations can be sent to CPOA, Kevin Burrell/James Mac Donald Memorial Fund, P0. Box 5368, Compton 90224.
(Part of this account was written and submitted to the CPOM online by Officer Mac Donald’s mother.)