The DEA Honor Roll
Official Line of Duty Deaths
Steven D. McDonald
Rank: Detective, first grade
Shield Number: 104
Command: Central Park Precinct & Employee Relations Section
Date of Death: 01/10/2017
Cause of Death: Complications from a near-fatal, line-of-duty shooting in 1986
Det. First Grade Steven D. McDonald is probably the most world-renown member of the New York City Police Department since its founding in 1845. He spent more than three decades extolling forgiveness and reconciliation in the wake of having been paralyzed as a young Officer with only two years the job.
On the afternoon of July 12, 1986, P.O. McDonald approached three teens in Central Park. They were suspected of stealing bicycles. A 15-year-old pulled a .22 caliber handgun and shot McDonald in the neck, hand, and face.
The gunshot wounds left McDonald relegated to a wheelchair, paralyzed, and attached to breathing apparatus for the rest of his life, but the Officer’s deep faith, coupled with the love of his extraordinary family, carried him through his adversity. Miraculously defying doctors’ predictions, McDonald remained an active member of the New York Police Department for the next 31 years. He was promoted to Detective on December 20, 1995, and to first grade Detective on December 23, 2003. His early, public forgiveness of the teenager who shot him made international headlines, and McDonald spent the rest of his life bringing his message of peace and forgiveness to many corners of the world, including war torn Ireland, the Middle East, and Bosnia, and always as a goodwill ambassador for the NYPD.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act,” he said, “It is a permanent attitude.”
McDonald’s wife was pregnant with their only child at the time of the shooting. A force in her own right, Patti Ann McDonald went on to become the Mayor of Malverne, Long Island, New York. Their son, Conor, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the NYPD, moving up the management ranks. He is now a Lieutenant.
McDonald kept in touch with the teen who paralyzed him, who served nine years in prison and ironically, upon release in 1995, was killed in a motorcycle accident three days later.
McDonald — a devout Roman Catholic and a United States Navy veteran — has been the topic of countless articles, books, awards and honors, including: a documentary and an autobiography, and he was still an active member of the Department when he passed away from the complications of his conditions on January 10, 2017 at the age of 59.
On January 13, 2017, a massive funeral at famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan was held to honor him.
In 1986, the New York Rangers of the NHL created the “Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award” which is annually given to the player who goes “above and beyond the call of duty.”
In July of 2017, the Finest Federal Credit Union named and dedicated its main office at 59 Maiden Lane in McDonald’s honor. In 2018, the DEA’s annual plastic commemorative card was designed in his memory. In 2018, McDonald’s Police Officer’s shield of No. 15231 was permanently retired from the NYPD. On February 9, 2018, a portion of the Southern State Parkway was named the Detective Steven McDonald Memorial Highway. Numerous other memorials have been bestowed on the McDonald family in memory of Steven. The DEA’s own annual Humanitarian Award, presented at our annual dinner, is named in his honor. On October 4, 2017, the 86th Street Transverse in Central Park in Manhattan was named after him. A scholarship program was established in his name by With Arms Wide Open, a charity which deals with NYPD parents who have children with disabilities. After his death, a company called Prickly Thistle created an official, registered Scottish tartan in the McDonald family’s honor with fabric elements specifically representative of his life. On September 21, 2019, Westwood Park in Malverne dedicated the Steven McDonald Garden of Forgiveness in his memory.
You can read the New York Times article “Paralyzed Officer Forgives Teen-age Assailant” published March 2, 1987 on the following pdf link:
You can read the January 10, 2017 obituary published in the New York Times by clicking on the following pdf link:
You can read an obituary published in The Gold Shield’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue by clicking on the following pdf link:
You can read about a few of the posthumous tributes to McDonald as published in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of The Gold Shield by clicking on the following pdf link: