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.”
— Commissioner O’Neill (@NYPDONeill) January 10, 2017
On the day of his son’s baptism, McDonald publicly forgave the boy who made him a quadriplegic.
“I forgive him, and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life,” he said, theNew York Daily News reported.
The shooter was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and was released in 1995. Three days later, Jones died from head injuries sustained while riding on the back of a motorcycle, theNew York Post reported.
McDonald went back to work in January 1988 and was promoted to detective in 1995.
— NYPD Central Park (@NYPDCentralPark) December 29, 2016
Unable to hug his wife or salute his police sergeant son, McDonald spent his life spreading a message of peace. He traveled to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Middle East; he sat for interviews with Barbara Walters and David Letterman; he met the late Pope John Paul II, former President George W. Bush and former revolutionary president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
Bruce Springsteen even babysat his son one night, the Daily News reported.
Rest In Peace Steven McDonald.
Our friend. Our hero. Above and beyond. pic.twitter.com/6xOHSGnlyO
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 10, 2017
“No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “Like so many cops, Steven joined the NYPD to make a difference in people’s lives. And he accomplished that every day. He is a model for each of us as we go about our daily lives. He will be greatly missed, and will always remain a part of our family.”
In addition to his wife and son, McDonald is survived by his brother and sisters and his father, David McDonald.
As a mark of respect for NYPD Det. Steven McDonald, who passed away today, flags have been lowered to half-staff by order of @NYCMayor.
— NYC Mayor’s Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) January 10, 2017
Our prayers for the McDonald family on the passing of Detective Steven McDonald. He has been a symbol of courage for NYC for 30 yrs #Hero
— Chief Robert Boyce (@NYPDDetectives) January 10, 2017
“There are no easy victories. That’s how they play the game. That’s how we live our lives. That’s how we like it” R.I.P. Steven McDonald pic.twitter.com/eHq9iLVYJy
— WeBleedBlue (@WeBleedBlueNYC) January 10, 2017