A former U.S. Navy hospital corpsman and third generation NYPD police officer, McDonald was shot in the line of duty by 15-year-old Shavod Jones, whom he was questioning about bicycle thefts in Central Park. Officer McDonald and a co-worker were on patrol in Central Park, because there had been reports about a robbery in the park. While attempting to question Jones, McDonald noticed something in a sock the boy was carrying, and when he wanted to see what it was, McDonald was shot three times. The first bullet hit him in the head, above his eye; the second hit his throat and caused him to have a speaking disability; and the third shattered his spine, paralyzing him from the neck down and leaving him quadriplegic and in need of a ventilator.
Several months after he was shot, McDonald reported to the press that he had forgiven Jones for his actions. McDonald discussed the reasons for his forgiveness in some detail in the foreword of a 2014 book titled Why Forgive?, written by friend and pastor Johann Christoph Arnold.
Jones served nine years in prison for the shooting and had called McDonald to apologize, but the two never met in person after the incident. Jones was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 9, 1995, three days after his release on parole.
Personal life and death
McDonald's wife, Patricia Ann "Patti" McDonald, was elected Mayor of Malverne on Long Island in March 2007. At the time of the shooting, they had been married for less than a year and Patti was pregnant with their son Conor, born January 1987, who followed his father's footsteps and joined the NYPD in 2010. Conor attained the rank of Sergeant in the force by the time of his father's passing.
Steven McDonald died on January 10, 2017, at the age of 59, after suffering a heart attack a few days prior but died from his injuries. He was given a full police funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral with Cardinal Dolan presiding over the Mass. Thousands of civilians and law enforcement officers gathered inside and outside the cathedral to pay their final respects and goodbyes, and the Mass was broadcast on the city's PIX 11 out of respect for Detective McDonald's legacy. Phillip Phillips, winner of the eleventh season of American Idol, was invited to the wake service and performed his hit song "Home" because it was one of McDonald's favorites, according to his son, Conor.
Breaking The Cycle program
McDonald further promoted his message of forgiveness following his shooting by founding Breaking The Cycle, a program promoting nonviolent conflict resolution. McDonald would attend assemblies at high schools or middle schools and tell the students about his personal story of forgiveness. The program was started after McDonald traveled to Northern Ireland multiple times from 1997 to 1999 with his friends Mychal Judge and Johann Christoph Arnold to promote forgiveness in the wake of the conflicts there.
Following his death, McDonald's wife and son have continued working with Breaking The Cycle by telling his story of forgiveness to students.
Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award
The New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL) established the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in his honor following the 1987–1988 NHL season. Detective McDonald personally presented a Ranger with a trophy and a $25,000 check (in the player's name) made out to the Steven McDonald Foundation.
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- "25 Years Later, Paralyzed NYPD Detective McDonald Still Inspiring Others". CBS New York. July 12, 2011.
- "NYPD Photo Release — McDonald, Driscoll Shields". nyc.gov. December 16, 2010.
- Arnold, Johann Christoph (2014). "Steven McDonald's Story". Plough.com. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- Arnold, Johann Christoph (January 2, 2014). Why Forgive?. Orbis Press. ASIN B00IFEHLZA.
- "Steven McDonald's Story". Plough. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "Profile of Steven McDonald". Breaking the Cycle. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Freed Shooter Of Policeman Dies in Crash, The New York Times, September 11, 1995
- "Wife of paralyzed cop elected village mayor". New York Daily News. Associated Press. March 21, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2009.[permanent dead link]
- Goldstein, Richard (January 10, 2017). "Steven McDonald, Paralyzed Officer Who Championed Forgiveness, Dies at 59". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
- "Final Salute: The funeral of NYPD Det. Steven McDonald". PIX11 News. January 13, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Phillip Phillips Sings His Hit 'Home' at Steven McDonald's Wake in Tribute to NYPD Hero", Patheos, January 14, 2017, retrieved December 29, 2018
- "About Breaking the Cycle, A project of the Bruderhof". www.breakingthecycle.com. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "Remembering Detective Steven McDonald". www.ollchs.org. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
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- "Speakers | Breaking the Cycle". www.breakingthecycle.com. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- "Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award". New York Rangers.