Dustin Sean Ross McDonald (left) and the late Aaron Jonathan Chavez.
Dustin Sean Ross McDonald (left) and the late Aaron Jonathan Chavez.
Santa Ana Police Department; DMV

Dustin Sean Ross McDonald Gets 114 Years for Killing over Soured Drug Deal

A Garden Grove man was sentenced last week to 114 years to life in state prison for shooting into a vehicle, killing a man and injuring two women in a soured drug deal.

A jury on June 14 found 25-year-old Dustin Sean Ross McDonald guilty of first degree murder, two felony counts of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation, and sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death or great bodily injury.

All the players in this tragic tale had agreed to meet on Aug. 12, 2014, for a drug deal, Senior Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke had told jurors.

Around 11:30 that night, McDonald drove up to a sedan that a 21-year-old woman had parked in the area of 12th Street and Main Street, with Aaron Jonathan Chavez in the front passenger seat and a 28-year-old female riding in the back.

McDonald then stepped out of his SUV, walked around to the front passenger side of the sedan, pulled out a firearm and fired around 10 shots. The trio inside the sedan were hit multiple times by rounds from McDonald's gun. Chavez died at the scene. The woman were taken to a local hospital but ultimately survived their injuries.

After surveillance video from the area of the shooting was studied, McDonald was stopped by Santa Ana cops the next evening as he drove near his residence and was arrested.

The verdict was tough for the jury to reach because Chavez was a drug dealer who sold McDonald fake heroin. McDonald claims that when he confronted Chavez about it, Chavez reached for something in the sedan. McDonald, thinking it was a gun, fired first. Knives were later found in the sedan.

That spurred the jury to deadlock a day before reaching a consensus the following day. That included rejecting one of Burke's special circumstances requests.

At sentencing last week, Chavez's family spoke about the effect his loss has had on them via a victim impact statement to the court. They said the deceased was a kind, compassionate, intelligent man who had a passion for making music.

Ashlee C., one of the women injured by McDonald, also delivered a statement that said, in part: "It replays over in my head and it never gets easier. I saw Aaron get shot right in front of my eyes. I saw him die. The last image I have of him is one I wish was never burned into my memory."

She also stated that, "the most terrifying realization is that you're about to die. Pretending you're dead just so he will stop shooting, but that didn't happen. Round after round penetrating my body, I was numb. To this day I still don't have complete feeling in my right thigh or my index finger. Some of the numbness went away and some of it will last a lifetime."


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >