Jose Javier Figueroa
Jose Javier Figueroa
On Nov. 3, 2020, Joshua MacDonald, 39, died outside a Lovelock casino from a gunshot wound to his chest. The next day officers arrested Jose Javier Figueroa, 21, on charges of open murder and illegally concealing a firearm.

On Dec. 6, 2021, Judge Jim Shirley sentenced Figueroa four to ten years in prison for voluntary manslaughter. Figueroa, now 22, must also serve 13 to 36 months for the concealed weapons charge. The sentences will run consecutively. He has 397 days credit for time served and must pay $178 in court costs.

Two grieving families testified at the sentencing hearing last Monday. Las Vegas defense attorney Brett Whipple called Figueroa’s mother and brother to the stand. Outside the courtroom due to Covid restrictions, his father, stepmother, friend and two cousins waited.

“What he did was not right, but we want him home with us and love him dearly,” said Figueroa’s mother, Yolanda Chavez. “He has a job and two small children waiting for him.”

“Growing up, Jose was a good kid and never in any trouble,” added the defendant’s brother, Reyes Figueroa. “I practically raised him.” 

The defendant also spoke to the judge before sentencing.

“I’m truly sorry. I didn’t want it to happen the way it did. I think about it every day and know it will haunt me for the rest of my life. I thought I had to protect myself and my life. I have no criminal history.”

“My three-year-old daughter and two-year-old son are my world. I’ve been away from them for over a year now,” he said before asking the judge to grant probation.

The preliminary hearing established that, after buying milk at the grocery store, Figueroa drove to the casino at 150 Main Street and put $5 in a slot machine. An employee with a grudge against Figueroa called Joshua MacDonald to “take care of business.”

According to court documents, MacDonald arrived and confronted Figueroa inside the casino. Later testing showed MacDonald had a small amount of alcohol, methamphetamine and THC (a metabolite of marijuana) in his system. He also had a knife concealed in his back pocket, covered by his sweatshirt.

The altercation continued outside. Whipple suggested that Figueroa’s leg injury hampered his ability to get away from MacDonald.

Whipple entered the casino’s surveillance tape into evidence. It showed the sequence of events but remains open to interpretation. 

The tape begins with MacDonald and Figueroa facing each other outside the casino. Whipple emphasized that Figueroa turns his body and takes two steps away from MacDonald. However, DA Bryce Shields said it appears Figueroa reaches for his illegally concealed firearm as he takes those steps.

Next, MacDonald’s hand makes glancing contact with Figueroa’s head. Finally, tragically, Figueroa turns to face MacDonald and shoots him in the chest at point- blank range, aiming the weapon directly at his chest. 

Joshua MacDonald’s family gave victim impact statements. His parents testified by telephone. His fiancee and brother came to court. The DA asked them how Joshua MacDonald’s death affected them and what they thought was the appropriate punishment for Figueroa. 

“Joshua was taken away from us very young,” said Roxanne MacDonald, the victim’s mother. “He was only 39, with many years left to be a father and live a life. His children will never know him. He won’t be able to teach them, support them or love them. I feel robbed of the amazing person Joshua was and was going to be. You could hear the pride in his voice when he talked about his children.”

“Forgive me if I start crying,” said the victim’s father, James Craig MacDonald. “Mr. Figueroa needs to be accountable for this. It just hurts. I can’t say any more. I just miss that boy.” 

Joshua McDonald’s brother, James MacDonald, said his younger sibling was trying to turn his life around. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for all of us,” he said of the past year.

“Joshua was taken away three days before his son’s second birthday,” said Bryenne Merideth, MacDonald’s fiancee. “He didn’t deserve to die and my family didn’t deserve to lose him. He was my best friend.”

Shields asked for the maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter, four to ten years. He pointed out that Figueroa fractured his tibia in Feb. 2019. “That’s a long time to heal,” he said.

“It’s true Mr. MacDonald was no angel. He had a criminal history, had been to prison and had a knife on him. But he is no longer here today because of the actions of the defendant. Probation for taking a life? How is that fair? This case deserves the max and that’s what we’re asking for.”

“If I could I’d bring that young man’s life back, I would,” said the judge before sending Figueroa to prison. “But that can’t be. That’s the tragedy of these type of cases. Nothing can bring Joshua MacDonald back to life.”