Staten Island Advance
updated January 10, 2017 at 4:48 PM

NYPD hero Det. Steven McDonald dies; spoke to hundreds of Staten Island school children

By Thomas Erik Bascome

Detective Steven McDonald spoke to students at Blessed Sacrament school on May 19, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Diane Gatto.)See photo gallery

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Steven McDonald, an NYPD detective who was paralyzed in a shooting three decades ago and spoke to hundreds of Staten Island students about forgiveness and bullying over the years, has died.

He was 59.

The NYPD released the following statement:

"It is with great sadness that Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill, and the men and women of the New York City Police Department, announce the death of Detective First Grade Steven McDonald, who passed away shortly after 1 p.m. today at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island while in the comforting presence of his wife Patti Ann; his son Conor, an NYPD sergeant; his friends and colleagues."

McDonald was appointed to the NYPD in 1984, and in 1986, was shot by 15-year-old Shavod Jones while patrolling Central Park.

The shooting left McDonald a quadriplegic, but also turned him into a beacon of hope, inspiration, and forgiveness for all who've heard him speak.

McDonald continued as an active member of the Police Department despite the fact that he required a wheelchair and was only able to breathe with help from a respirator.

He often visited schools, church groups, and police stations to spread his message of faith, forgiveness, and peace.

McDonald has spoken at various schools on Staten Island over the years including Blessed Sacrament in West Brighton and St. John Lutheran in Castleton Corners.  

McDonald's words have had a profound impact on Staten Island's youth over the years.

"Today was inspirational to me," said seventh-grader Olivia Sweeney in May of 2015. "Detective McDonald reminded me that we should respect all life and have forgiveness.  It  is important to value all people's lives." 

This past year, McDonald spoke at the annual graduation Mass for 8th grade Catholic school students and continued to preach his message of forgiveness.

"Forgiveness is an act of mercy for ourselves as well as for the person who hurt us," said McDonald.

O'Neill made the following statement:

"No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world. 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." 

Various local officials and organizations have released statements to express their condolences to the McDonald family:

District Attorney Michael E. McMahon:
"For me, this is a personal as well as a professional loss. I had the honor of meeting Detective Steven McDonald on numerous occasions and even helped arrange his speaking before a group of young students at Blessed Sacrament in the mid-1990s. Steven's message of courage, strength, near-death, recovery and forgiveness moved not only the adults in the hall but many of the young children walked away with a powerful lesson of leading a life that matters. My family and my staff send our deepest condolences to Patti Ann, Conor and the entire McDonald family and pray that they find peace in this most difficult time."

Mayor Bill de Blasio:
"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. 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. On Saturday, I joined the McDonald family at his bedside and shared their grief and the comfort of their boundless faith. This extraordinary family lives Detective McDonald's message of forgiveness and service every day. 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. 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."

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer:
"He was an icon within the NYPD, a hero throughout our city, and an inspiration to all. Detective Steven McDonald will be deeply missed, but his unrivaled strength, service, and dedication will never be forgotten. He personified perseverance. He embodied the values, each and every day, by which we should all strive to live. And he represented what it means to be a New Yorker. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the entire NYPD family during this difficult time."

Patrolmen's Benevolence Association President Patrick J. Lynch:
"Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known. Despite the tremendous pain in his life, both physical and emotional, his concern for his fellow police officers and for the people of New York City never wavered. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man. He was a true American hero."