NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A hero NYPD detective, known for forgiving a gunman who left him paralyzed, has died days after suffering a heart attack. He was 59.
Steven McDonald died shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital, where he’d been admitted Friday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said. Dozens of officers lined up outside the hospital as they transported his body to the funeral home.
Outside Village Hall in his hometown of Malverne, Long Island, ribbons were placed on the railings. Many residents were in too much pain to speak on camera, but several paused to reflect on such the remarkable life of the fallen hero.
“Wonderful father, wonderful husband,” resident Linda McCartney told CBS2’s Alice Gainer. “Can’t say any more about him. He was just wonderful.”
“What an amazing attitude,” said Laurie Romano. “What an inspiration, I mean how many people would turn something so bad into something so positive?”
McDonald was appointed to the NYPD on July 16, 1984.
He was investigating a bicycle robbery in Central Park on July 12, 1986 when he was shot three times. He was newly married to wife Patti-Ann, who gave birth to the couple’s son Conor three months after the shooting.
Doctors told his wife that he wouldn’t live through the afternoon. McDonald survived. He was left quadriplegic and had to breathe on a ventilator.
He publicly forgave the teen shooter, Shavod Jones, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In the years after the shooting, McDonald became one of the world’s foremost pilgrims for peace. In 1995 he met with Pope John Paul II. That same year he was promoted to detective. He spoke at two Republican conventions.
“God has a plan for me,” he said in a previous interview with CBS2. “It’s different from other people. That’s the only reason why I’m here.”
In 2004, he was promoted to detective first grade.
McDonald took his message of forgiveness to Israel, Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
“No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “Like so many cops, Steven joined the NYPD to make a difference in people’s lives. And he accomplished that every day. He is a model for each of us as we go about our daily lives. He will be greatly missed, and will always remain a part of our family.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is heartbroken by the loss.
“His words encouraged all of us to continue to bring police and communities closer together,” de Blasio said. “The story of Detective Steven McDonald needs to be understood across the United States, especially as we work to heal the wounds of the past. There is no greater example of honor and service to others. Let it be our mission to continue his work.”
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, called McDonald “a true American hero.”
“Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known,” Lynch said in a statement. “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. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man.”
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called McDonld a “New York City hero who inspired people everywhere he went.”
“His relentless determination to use his tragedy to save others was an extraordinary act of selflessness and an incredible gift to the world,” he added. “To know him was to admire him — and all of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend will miss him.”
Raymond Kelly — NYPD Commissioner under the Bloomberg and David Dinkins administrations — spoke with WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb Tuesday. He said that McDonald will live in his heart forever.
“Steven McDonald was without a doubt one of the most remarkable people that I’ve ever met,” Kelly said. “His grit and his grace were legendary and — I’ve said it many times — I call Steven a living saint.”
Long Island Congressman Peter King issued a tweet saying, “NYPD Det. Steven McDonald was a great friend & man of enormous courage & spirit. My prayers are w Patty Anne/Connor. I mourn his death. RIP”
New York Archdiocese Timothy Dolan spoke to CBS2’s Tony Aiello about what McDonald meant to the local Catholic community.
“We Catholics had a special pride in him,” he said. “I’m using this word purposely — we had a real saint on our hands. He was really a prophet. He was really an icon.”
The New York Rangers, who established an award in McDonald’s honor in 1987, called the detective “a cherished member of the Rangers family.”
“Steven exemplified the true meaning of the word hero and also personified the ‘Blueshirt Faithful,'” the team said in a statement. “He is an inspiration to us all and his legacy will continue to live on in our hearts and minds.”
Former Blueshirt Adam Graves spoke with CBS2 about the legacy McDonald leaves behind.
“He represents everything that was good, and good in people,” he said. “He exemplifies what a true hero is, and what character means.”
Graves also spoke with WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace and Steve Scott, and added that he considered himself “very, very fortunate and privileged to have gotten to know.”
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The teen that shot McDonald, and served nine years behind bars, was killed in a motorcycle accident just days after he was released from prison.
Last year, McDonald saw his NYPD officer son promoted to detective.
McDonald is survived by his wife, Patti Ann, and his son, Conor.
His funeral will be held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday. Viewings will be held Wednesday and Thursday at St. Agnes Parish Center in Rockville Center.
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