A former U.S. Navy hospital corpsman and third generation 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. Detective 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 his injuries, 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. On September 9, 1995, three days after his release on parole, Jones was killed in a motorcycle accident.
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, who followed his father's footsteps and joined the NYPD in 2010.
Steven McDonald died on January 10, 2017, at the age of 59, after suffering a massive heart attack a few days prior. He was given a full police funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral with Cardinal Dolan presiding over the mass. Thousands gathered inside and outside the cathedral to pay their final respects and goodbyes, and the mass was broadcast on New York's PIX 11 out of respect for Detective McDonald's legacy.
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.
- "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.
- "Profile of Steven McDonald". Breaking the Cycle. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- 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 9 August 2009.
- "NYPD Detective Steven McDonald dies days after heart attack". News12 Interactive. 10 January 2017.
- "Final Salute: The funeral of NYPD Det. Steven McDonald". PIX11 News. January 13, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award". New York Rangers.
- The Steven McDonald Story at Google Books. Pocket Books, 1991.
- Why Forgive, pp 172–192. Plough Publishing, New York, 2010.