It was the summer of 1986, a year when crime was rampant and seemingly out of control in New York City. It was the same year a Bronx drug dealer, Larry Davis, shot and wounded six cops.
That July 12, there was a call of a robbery in Central Park. NYPD Officer Steven McDonald responded, and with his partner questioned three teenage suspects. One of them, 15-year-old Shavod Jones, suddenly turned and fired, shattering McDonald’s spine and paralyzing him from the neck down.
McDonald was 29 years old, with a pregnant wife and his whole life ahead of him. Instead, he would live the next 30 years on a ventilator as a quadriplegic. He died Tuesday after a heart attack.
Many people finding themselves in a similar situation might wallow in self-pity and bitterness. Instead, a few months after the shooting, McDonald publicly forgave Jones and tried to meet with and help redeem him. In that, he was unsuccessful. They never met. Jones died in 1995, a few years after he was released from prison.
But with both his wife, Patricia Ann, now the mayor of Malverne, and his son, Conor, now an NYPD sergeant, McDonald became an inspiration to people both inside and outside the NYPD.
“I think of him as the patron saint of the NYPD,” said former First Deputy Commissioner George Grasso, now the supervisory judge of Bronx Criminal Court, who like scores of others visited McDonald in the hospital on Monday as McDonald laid unconscious after suffering a heart attack.
“The virtues he showed, the way he lived is life, his power of forgiveness – to say he represents the best of the best is an understatement,” said Grasso. “No one can put into words how he lived and the love he showed.”
McDonald attended virtually all significant NYPD occasions, especially at times of adversity, such as in the aftermath of 9/11 or at the trials of officers, helping them via various organizations and prayer groups.
“Together with his family he has always been there for the NYPD,” Grasso said. “What they have done to support our officers in need cannot be put into words.”
When McDonald died on Tuesday afternoon, encomiums poured in, from Mayor Bill de Blasio to NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who called McDonald a “source of inspiration and incredible hope to people the world over.”
Said Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, “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."
A wake will be held Wednesday and Thursday at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. The funeral service is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.