Paralyzed cop inspired kids at St. Patrick Catholic Academy
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The death of hero cop Steven McDonald is touching New Yorkers of all stripes, from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to kids at a Bay Ridge Catholic school who were deeply moved by the inspiring words the legendary detective delivered during a visit there two months ago.
McDonald, who was paralyzed from the neck down following a shooting in Central Park in 1986, died Tuesday, a few days after suffering a heart attack. In the three decades since he was shot, he remained an active member of the NYPD and traveled to precincts, schools and other places to talk about the importance of forgiveness and how people should treat each other with kindness. McDonald forgave the teenager who shot him.
Bloomberg issued a statement expressing his sorrow at McDonald’s passing.
“Steven McDonald was 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. To know him was to admire him — and all of us who were lucky enough to call him a friend will miss him," the former mayor said.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer called McDonald “an icon within the NYPD” and said the late detective was an inspiration to all. “Steven McDonald will be deeply missed but his unrivaled strength, service and dedication will never be forgotten,” he said.
In November, McDonald visited St. Patrick Catholic Academy at 401 97th St. and delivered a powerful message of faith, hope and forgiveness to the students.
Principal Kathleen Curatolo, who introduced McDonald to her students, said that the hero cop was there to deliver an important message to them. “I know we’ll be hanging onto every word,” she said.
McDonald, who was Catholic, implored the students to love one another and work to stop violence.
McDonald also recounted the painful events of July 12, 1986, the day he was shot.
McDonald went out on patrol that day with Sgt. Peter King, who he described as a “great boss.”
They were in a car searching for drug suspects and pulled up to three teens. But the teens, who were 13, 14 and 15 years old, ran away. McDonald chased them and found them in a meadow.
He saw something sticking out of the sock of the 13-year-old. When McDonald went to take a closer look, the 15-year-old, later identified as Savod Jones, pulled out a gun and shot him three times.
“The first bullet entered my head just above my eye,” the detective said. The second bullet struck him in the throat and the third shot hit him in the body, severing his spine.
“It was my worst nightmare. I knew right away I was in a bad place and in a bad way. The first thought that comes to you is how much you want to live,” he recounted.
Within minutes after he was shot, other cops arrived at the park and took him in a police car to the hospital. They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance.
He miraculously survived the shooting. But the incident rendered him paralyzed from the neck down.
“I forgave the boy who shot me. I know that if I didn’t forgive the boy who shot me, I would have died,” McDonald said.
“You can forgive those who hurt you,” he told the students.