One year after his death a plaque to honor Detective Steven McDonald has been installed at the Central Park Precinct he worked at New York City.
Steven passed on January 10, 2017 from a respiratory failure - having spent 30 years in a wheelchair and dependent on a breathing machine.
The hero cop was left paraplegic in 1986 after he was shot three times trying to stop a teenager steal a bike. 48 hours of surgery followed and for a while it looked like the 29-year-old wouldn’t survive, but he held on and lived to see the birth of his son, Conor, six months later.
“To me, Conor’s birth was like a message from God that I should live, and live differently,” he later recalled.
Steven McDonald is pictured with his only child, Connor, who was born just months after the Central Park shooting in 1986. Connor would later follow him into the NYPD in 2010. Conor McDonald, left, kisses his father Steven after being promoted to detective on Jan. 28, 2016. pic.twitter.com/vd13K17cUy— First Responders (@OurResponders) January 5, 2018
Sometimes people asked him how he forgave his attacker, Shavod Jones, and his answer was always simple: “I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”
The pair exchanged letters - even becoming friends. Steven had big hopes for when he got out of prison; hopes that they would be able to tour the country together and become powerful advocates against violence in America.
Alas, it was not to be. Shavod died only three days after his release from prison after he was involved in a motorcycle accident. Like Steven, he too suffered a terrible accident just as his life was on the cusp of a new beginning.
Still Steven persevered and became a sought after speaker in schools and colleges, regaling students with the importance of forgiveness and eschewing violence in all its forms.
A devout Catholic, Steven’s work was so well known that he was nicknamed the “God Cop” and went on to meet three Popes.
“He was the greatest man that I could ask to be my father,” Conor told a packed congregation at St Patrick's Cathedral where his father’s coffin had been carried in draped in a Star Spangled Banner, shaded green in honor of his Irish heritage.
His wife, Patricia, said at the unveiling of his plaque, "You only have one chance to make this place a better place and Steven showed it, it didn't matter how many obstacles are in front of you."
Now Conor has taken up his mantle and joined the NYPD. He’s also planning his wedding to his long-term girlfriend, Katie Sullivan.
“I’m getting married, and maybe I’ll have kids. I don’t know how I’m going to be as great as he was,” he added.