Steven McDonald, the New York Police Department detective who forgave the teenager who paralyzed him, died Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 59.|
McDonald was hospitalized after he had a heart attack Friday.
McDonald was shot three times by a 15-year-old boy in Central Park in July 1986. He was paralyzed from the neck down. He remained on the department’s payroll and made many appearances at public events in support of other wounded officers.
In 1987, he wrote a statement about the gunman, read by his wife.
“I’m sometimes angry at the teen-age boy who shot me,” he wrote, “but more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope that he can turn his life into helping and not hurting people. I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.”
He reached out to the gunman’s family and attended church services with them. He also maintained a correspondence with his attacker, Shavod Jones, after the young man was convicted and sent to prison.
Jones died in a motorcycle accident four days after being paroled in 1995.
McDonald’s story was documented in the book “The Steven McDonald Story” (1989), written by his wife and E.J. Kahn III. He had to breathe with a respirator and used a wheelchair for mobility. He found strength and support in his family and Roman Catholic religion.
He was born in Queens Village, March 1, 1957, and grew up on Long Island. He was one of eight children and was the third generation to become a police officer.
Beyond his own case, McDonald was also active as an advocate for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. He was also recognized nationally as a spokesman for people with disabilities and spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1996 in support of U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who had been severely wounded in World War II.
A hockey fan, McDonald awarded his eponymous honor – the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award – each year to a New York Rangers player who goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Despite the hardships he endured, McDonald remained optimistic and hopeful about humanity and New York City in particular.
“There is more love in this city than there are street corners,” he said.
“Steven was an exceptional human being who should not be defined by the shooting that paralyzed him, but by what he accomplished in life after it happened,” Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD detective’s union, told the New York Post.