Det. Steven McDonald, who forgave the teen who shot and paralyzed him in Central Park in 1986 and in the decades that followed became an inspirational messenger of courage and peace, died Tuesday. He was 59.
McDonald died at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island where he had been taken after suffering a heart attack on Friday, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill announced. He was surrounded by his family at bedside.
"Throughout his career in public service, Detective McDonald put his life on the line to protect his fellow New Yorkers, and served as a true inspiration to all of us," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "When the odds were stacked against him, Detective McDonald set the standard of excellence and demonstrated unparalleled resilience and compassion. Detective McDonald represents the very best of New York and his grand presence will be sorely missed."
On July 12, 1986, McDonald, four days shy of his second anniversary with the NYPD, approached three teens in Central Park. Shavod Jones, a 15-year-old suspected bike thief, shot the undercover officer three times, according to the NYPD.
McDonald was instantly paralyzed and was not expected to survive.
His wife, Patti Ann, was visiting family in Pennsylvania at the time, pregnant with their only child, Conor, who later became a fourth-generation NYPD officer.
“This extraordinary family lives Detective McDonald’s message of forgiveness and service every day,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday. “We are blessed that NYPD Detective Sergeant Conor McDonald continues in his father’s footsteps and will ensure his legacy lives on in the greatest police department in the world.”