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Detective McDonald delivered a message of healing

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In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the TimesLedger newspaper presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history

Steven McDonald, a native of Queens Village, was a New York City police detective who became a messenger of peace and forgiveness after being shot and paralyzed in the line of duty in 1986. Before his death Jan. 10, 2017, Detective McDonald traveled the world, from high school gyms on Long Island to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Middle East sharing his story of rebirth through forgiving the young man who nearly took his life. When his son, Conor, joined the police force in 2010, he proudly became the fourth generation McDonald to don the NYPD badge. His wife Patti has been the mayor of Malverne on Long Island since 2007.

The third of eight children in a large Queens Irish-Catholic family, Steven McDonald was born on March 1, 1957 and spent most of his early years in Rockville Centre, L.I. After four years of service in the U.S. Navy, McDonald became a police officer in 1984. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, a decorated detective who survived a gunshot wound in the line of duty, and his father, who took young Steven along for rides in his radio car.

Detective McDonald was on the force for less than two years on that fateful July day when he and his partner approached three youths behaving suspiciously in Central Park. When attempting to frisk one suspect, another youth named Shavod Jones approached McDonald and shot him three times. At age 29, the young officer would never again hold his young wife or play with his son Conor, born the following year. Through a grueling 18 months in rehabilitation and an equally trying journey through his own soul, however, a new act and a new life eventually revealed itself to McDonald.

In his book, “Why Forgive,” he shared his own path to forgiveness and inner peace:

“Then, about six months after I was shot, Patti Ann gave birth to a baby boy. We named him Conor. To me, Conor’s birth was like a message from God that I should live, and live differently. And it was clear to me that I had to respond to that message. I prayed that I would be changed, that the person I was would be replaced by something new.

“That prayer was answered with a desire to forgive the young man who shot me. I wanted to free myself of all the negative, destructive emotions that his act of violence had unleashed in me: anger, bitterness, hatred, and other feelings. I needed to free myself of those emotions so that I could love my wife and our child and those around us.

“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.”

In his second act as a messenger of peace inspired by his Catholic faith, McDonald reached out to the imprisoned Jones and forgave him. He shared his story, including trips to Northern Ireland with FDNY Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge, who perished in the 9/11 terror attacks. He met with world leaders from President George W. Bush to Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

Although he never again met Shavod Jones, who died in a motorcycle accident shortly after his prison release in 1995, he lived to see his son join the proud ranks of the NYPD in 2010 and touch the lives of countless people with his unequalled courage, love and understanding.

Compiled by Dan McDonald for the Greater Astoria Historical Society. For further information, contact the Society at 718-278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

Posted 12:00 am, March 9, 2017
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