SMITH: There's no forgetting Jimmy Mac
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.
James MacDonald was all excited. At 24, the former Piner High ace quarterback had accepted a job as a full-fledged police officer.
Throughout this week in 1993, “Jimmy Mac” was wrapping up as a partly paid, partly volunteer reserve officer in Compton. The Santa Rosa native was eager to return to the Bay Area and start a career with the San Jose P.D. early in March.
On the night of Feb. 22, MacDonald was minutes from completing his final patrol shift in Compton when he and partner Kevin Burrell, 29, spotted a violation by the driver of a red Chevrolet pickup. They pulled it to the curb.
Moments later the driver, a reputed gang member, opened fire on them with a 9 mm pistol. Both Burrell and MacDonald were killed.
Regis Thomas, then 23, was eventually arrested, convicted and sent to Death Row.
Compton later dissolved its police department and contracted with the L.A. County Sheriff's Office for law-enforcement services. But every Feb. 22, former members of the department have gathered in Compton with relatives and friends of the slain officers to honor their sacrifice.
MacDonald's folks in Santa Rosa, Jim and Toni MacDonald, planned to be there Friday for the 20th-year vigil, but Jim isn't physically up to it. So Jimmy Mac's brother, Jon and his wife, Irene, will represent the family.
Toni MacDonald said it seems unusual to her that a police department, much less a disbanded one, would continue to honor slain comrades 20 years after their deaths.
She said, “We are eternally grateful for what the men and women of Compton do for our boys.”
NO HANNA KID lived longer at the boys' home in Sonoma than Erick McAllister. He was 9 when he arrived as a virtual orphan and 18 when he graduated in the Class of 1989.
“My life was saved and by the time I left, I was the big brother to every boy there,” McAllister, now 41, said from Huntington Beach.
He said Hanna Boys Center took him in because his parents both were heroin addicts. He'd lived at Hanna for three years when Father John Crews came on as executive director. Soon, the boy came to regard the priest and headmaster as more.
“That's my dad. He helped raise me, turn me into the man I am today,” said McAllister, who works in financial services and assists an attorney who specializes in trying to save clients' homes.
He said he is not Crews' greatest success story, “but I have not given up on anything in my life. I take accountability for my actions, no one else is to blame.”
He credits Crews for shining light into his life and turning it around. “Rather than tell us what we were doing wrong, he showed us how to do it right,” he said.
And McAllister said it's excruciating to him to know that Crews stepped up countless times to comfort and encourage Hanna boys in difficult times, and they're powerless to support him now that an accusation of sexual impropriety from four decades ago has prompted him to resign.
“I wish I could hug him,” he said through tears. “He means that much.”
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