The New York Police Department’s love and admiration for Det. Steven McDonald — the NYPD officer who inspired others by forgiving the teenager who shot him and left him a quadriplegic, and overcoming his disabilities to remain an active officer — was further verified Tuesday by the long procession of police, fire and other emergency vehicles that escorted his body to the funeral home.
McDonald died Tuesday at age 59. He passed away at about 1:09 p.m., following four days on life support after suffering an apparent heart attack Friday, according to the New York Daily News. He was surrounded by his wife, Patricia Norris-McDonald, the mayor of Malverne, N.Y.; and his son Conor, an NYPD sergeant.
“New York City is heartbroken by the loss of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who for 30 years has been this city’s greatest example of heroism and grace,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a written statement. “I will forever cherish my last conversation with Detective McDonald, late last year. His words encouraged all of us to continue to bring police and communities closer together.”
McDonald barely escaped death in 1986 when on patrol in Central Park. Shavod Jones, then 15, shot the officer. McDonald inspired many when he forgave the shooter.
Jones served time in prison for attempted murder. Days after his 1996 release, he was killed in a motorcycle accident.
A full NYPD funeral is planned for Friday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a close friend of McDonald, will officiate, said a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.
“No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement. “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.”
McDonald’s misfortune didn’t stop him from continuing to touch people’s lives. In fact, if anything, he made himself into a tour de force of inspiration and determination. Despite his paralysis and requiring the aid of a respirator for breathing, McDonald remained an active member of the NYPD. He also regained his ability to talk. The NYPD promoted him to detective and the rank of lieutenant.
He was well-known for giving inspirational talks at public and parochial schools about what it means to forgive.