New York Police Department Detective Steven McDonald, who became an iconic symbol of courage, faith and forgiveness after being paralyzed in a shooting 30 years ago has died.
McDonald, 59, died shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, on Long Island, where he had been on life support after suffering a massive heart attack at his home Friday, KTLA sister station WPIX in New York City reported.
A man of faith who attended Mass frequently, McDonald’s wife’s cousin — an Irish priest — said Mass was held for the family at McDonald’s hospital bedside the day after his heart attack.
Following news of his death, fellow officers offered the family their condolences, including one NYPD official who said, “Steve is now an angel.”
The detective was paralyzed from the neck down in 1986 after he was shot by a teen bicycle thief in Central Park. McDonald’s wife was 3 months pregnant when McDonald was shot.
He was one of the best-known NYPD officers of the past three decades. In the early days after his catastrophic injury, it wasn’t certain he would survive days, much less years. Breathing with the help of a respirator and using a wheelchair, he remained on active duty with the department, often traveling from precinct to precinct to address young cops.
McDonald’s only child, Conor, 29, followed him into the NYPD, and Steven McDonald watched proudly as his son was promoted to detective, and later sergeant in 2016.
Conor McDonald posted a moving Facebook video in July on the the 30th anniversary of his father’s shooting. In the video, his father addressed the camera.
“It’s Steven McDonald speaking from my home out on Long Island,” the detective said, sitting in his wheelchair. “I wanted to say thank you for the support and the help that you’ve given me all these years. Thirty years. A long time. I never thought I’d be around this long. I’m very proud to be a part of the New York City Police Department — to be a friend, I’d like to believe — to all of you.”
The video concluded with McDonald relaying that the support received by his family had been so special to his wife, Patricia Ann, and their son.
Conor McDonald was born in January 1987 and will turn 30 years old later this month.
McDonald and his wife, who is the mayor of Malverne, Long Island, impressed New Yorkers with their faith and determination in the face of grievous injuries.
McDonald even forgave the young shooter, Shavod Jones.
Jones was fatally hit by a car three days after he was released from prison in September 1995. He died just a short distance from the shooting scene in Central Park.
McDonald was very close to the late New York Fire Department Chaplain, Rev. Mychal Judge, and the pair made peace trips to Northern Ireland. Father Judge was the first listed casualty of the 9/11 attacks. Steven McDonald started a walk of remembrance in Judge’s honor in 2002.
McDonald’s funeral will be on Friday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and will be celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.