Detective Steven McDonald
Perhaps the most widely known and respected man ever to wear the uniform of the NYPD, Steven McDonald is the most seriously wounded New York City Police Officer to survive his injuries. Nearly 25 years later, he remains on active duty, serving the Department and the people of New York.
Assigned to the Central Park Precinct, Steven was on foot patrol in the park on July 12, 1986, and stopped to question three teenagers. While he was questioning the oldest, 15 year old Shavod Jones drew a gun and shot Steven in the head and neck. One of the three bullets shattered his spine , paralyzing him from the neck down and leaving him quadriplegic for the rest of his life. What to many may have become an insurmountable tragedy instead has become a source of inspiration and faith for the McDonalds, the NYPD family, and virtually all who have come to know Steven or even have just read or heard about him. He captured the imagination of thousands when he publicly forgave Shavod Jones, himself killed in a motorcycle accident days after serving a brief term in prison, during which he called Steven and apologized for his actions. The act of forgiveness became the hallmark of the life Steven has devoted to spreading a message of reconcilliation and against violence. He has become a noted and widely sought public speaker, particularly on behalf of the NYPD, on peace intitiatives and reconcilliation in Northern Ireland, and the US Navy (where he served as a medical corpsman).
His repeated trips to Northern Ireland brought Steven praise and respect on both sides of the divide, notably in the aftermath of the horrific 1998 bombing in Omagh, when he and his wife, Patti Ann, and son, Conor, joined members of both communities to pray for reconcilliation as the foundation for a just and lasting peace.
Steven's work has inspired the New York Rangers to establish the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in his honor, and each year he presents a trophy to the winning player and a $25,000 check in the player's name to the Steven McDonald Foundation.
Imensely proud of his Irish heritage, just two years after being shot, Steven marched in his wheelchair in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, in uniform, with the NYPD, and hasn't missed a year since. The Prime Minister of Ireland himself traveled to New York to confer Irish citizenship on Steven.
Steven himself admits that before his injury he had not been very committed to his faith. That changed dramatically with the shooting, and their faith has been the rock on which Steven and Patti Ann have built their lives since. The late John Cardinal O'Connor became a friend to the McDonald family and a supporter of Steven.
During Steven's 18 months of treatment in Bellvue, Fr. Mychal Judge became one of his and Patti Ann's closest friends. Sadly, Steven identified Fr. Judge's body on the evening of September 11th, 2001, after "Father Mike" was killed in the line of duty, administering to the fallen at the World Trade Center in his role as FDNY Chaplain.
Patti Ann herself has become a public speaker and community leader, and in 2007, was elected Mayor of their hometown of Malverne, Long Island. Their son, Conor, was born during Steven's hosptial stay, and has grown up in his father's image, message, and beliefs, and the benefit of friends like Fr. Judge.
Probably no one was prouder than Steven when Conor, now 23, inspired by his father, took the oath this year as a member of the NYPD.
For all he has been and remains as an inspiration and model, for the NYPD and for all of us personally, we are proud and humbled to honor Steven McDonald as a true hero and our Guest of Honor.
** FROM THE ELEVENTH ANNUAL DINNER DANCE JOURNAL. **
Thirty-one years after being shot and injured, Steven died on January 10th, 2017. He's the closest thing to a living saint on Earth any of us will ever meet.
KEEPING THE HERITAGE ALIVE