Gothamist JAN 10, 2017 4:38 PM

Beloved NYPD Detective Paralyzed In 1986 Central Park Shooting Has Died


A NYPD detective who was paralyzed following a 1986 shooting in Central Park died this afternoon after having been hospitalized for a serious heart attack last Friday.

Steven McDonald, 59, passed away shortly after 1 p.m. this afternoon at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, where he was transferred after a short stay at Franklin General Hospital near his home in Malverne. McDonald was reportedly in stable condition as of Friday, according to the Daily News.

In 1986, McDonald was in the midst of a robbery investigation in Central Park when he was shot three times by a 15-year-old named Shavod Jones. The shots paralyzed the detective from the neck down. McDonald released a statement eight months later, famously forgiving Jones for his actions:

"On some days, when I am not feeling very well, I can get angry. But I have realized that anger is a wasted emotion and that I have to remember why I became a police officer. I'm sometimes angry at the teenage boy who shot me. But more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope 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."

Jones served eight years in prison for the attack, but died in a motorcycle crash just days after his release.

Despite the debilitating effects of his injuries, McDonald lived another three decades with the help of a wheelchair and respirator. He remained on active duty with the NYPD, serving as a goodwill ambassador, traveled to the Middle East, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland, and met with both Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

In the wake of McDonald's death, many took to Twitter to pay tribute to the beloved and widely-respected detective.

The New York Rangers released a statement and posted a video tribute to McDonald, who was a longtime superfan, on Twitter. The team has awarded the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award every year since the 1987-8 season "to the Rangers player who goes above and beyond the normal call of duty." Various Rangers players and awards recipients also added their condolences.

The NYPD released a statement eulogizing McDonald as "a unique source of inspiration and unrivaled pride to people the world over":

"A quadriplegic, he visited police station houses, schools, church groups, and more, spreading his message of faith, forgiveness, and peace. 'No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world,' said Commissioner O'Neill. '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.'"

Mayor de Blasio expressed his sympathy for the detective's family, naming McDonald the "city's greatest example of heroism and grace." He held up McDonald's legacy as the way to move forward in an ever-divided country: "The story of Detective Steven McDonald needs to be understood across the United States, especially as we work to heal the wounds of the past. There is no greater example of honor and service to others. Let it be our mission to continue his work."

McDonald is survived by his son, Conor, who is the fourth generation of the family to serve in the NYPD, his wife Patricia, his father David, and several brothers and sisters.