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NYPD's Steven McDonald Brings Message of Forgiveness to City Tech

NYPD Detective Lieutenant Steven D. McDonald

NYPD Detective Lieutenant Steven D. McDonald

Since his re-emergence into the public arena after being paralyzed for life by three bullets in 1986, NYPD Detective Lieutenant Steven D. McDonald has been travelling the world inspiring audiences with his powerfully moving message on nonviolence and forgiveness. In December, he brought that message to City Tech, in a presentation sponsored by the College's Committee on Pluralism & Diversity.

McDonald's journey began on a July evening 16 years ago during a period of random violence citywide that roving gangs of menacing teenagers termed "wilding." While questioning three boys, age 13 to 15, near the lake in Central Park, the officer bent down to have a better look at what he thought might be a gun in the youngest boy's sock. At that moment, the oldest of the three kids pulled out his own pistol and quickly fired off three shots at McDonald point blank.

What took only a second or two seemed an eternity to the young cop. As he noticed the older boy reach for his pistol, McDonald's eyes shifted to the youth's. In what seemed like slow motion, he saw the three flashes of fire as the boy's gun went off, smelled each burst of sulfur and sensed the entry as the three bullets cut into his head, neck and arm.

Rushed to a nearby hospital, McDonald could hear the doctors frantically struggling to save his life speak mostly of his likely death. Months later, McDonald heard another doctor suggest to his wife, Patti Ann, that she might want to "look for a place to put him away" in view of his permanent paralysis.

Today, McDonald's career as a police officer no longer focuses on "locking people up," as he puts it, "but in working to unlock them from prisons of attitude and behavior that foster hate, intolerance and violence."

The tenet of his faith that holds that from the greatest evil can come the greatest good and his unwavering trust in the liberating power of forgiveness sustained McDonald through a long and difficult convalescence, and shaped his determination to pursue a life of service to others rooted in his faith and trust. Unwilling to be denied a meaningful and productive life by the wheelchair and respirator that are his constant companions, McDonald puts all his energy into doing whatever he can to help build a better life for young people everywhere and others at risk.

Several years after the Central Park incident, McDonald received a phone call from the imprisoned youth who had shot him. The young man told him how very sorry he was for what he had done and for what his violent act had done to McDonald.

The two exchanged letters for many years and wrote of teaming up to carry to the world together a message of forgiveness and non-violence after the young man's release from prison -- a release that came in 1995. Three nights later, the phone rang in the McDonald home. The voice at the other end had called to let McDonald know that the young man who had shot him had just been killed in a motorcycle accident.

Photo Credit: George Lowe

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