NEW YORK—On Jan. 18, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was filled with police officers and city dignitaries as a Mass was held for Detective Steven McDonald, eight days after the fifth anniversary of his death.
On July 12, 1986, McDonald was on patrol in Central Park when he and his partner questioned 15-year-old Shavod Jones about bicycle thefts. Shavod fired three shots into McDonald, one of which left him a quadriplegic and on a ventilator.
However, McDonald spent a good part of the next 31 years on a lecture circuit, preaching forgiveness. McDonald forgave his assailant soon after the attack.
The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.
“Isn’t it appropriate that we gather here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to remember—to remember with a lot of gratitude and reverence—Detective Steven McDonald?” Dolan said in his prepared sermon.
Dolan talked about how the act of remembering is often spoken of in The Bible and “that these memories of Steven will bring some tears, and some smiles. But these memories will bring a lot of gratitude for who he was.”
He spoke of how McDonald was free “from emotional, spiritual and moral paralysis,” and how he was “healed by Jesus emotionally, spiritually, and morally.”
In attendance were McDonald’s widow, Patti Ann McDonald; his son, NYPD Lt. Conor McDonald; his wife, Katie Sullivan McDonald, and McDonald’s father, 92-year-old retired police Sgt. David McDonald as well as extended family.
Patti Ann McDonald and Katie McDonald both participated in the Mass.
Dignitaries in attendance included New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams, Detectives’ Endowment Association’s president Paul DiGiacomo and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, all of whom spoke after the Mass.
The cathedral was at about three-quarters capacity, mostly with police officers wearing their class-A, dress uniforms.
Outside of St Patrick’s several law enforcement agencies were present, including two K-9 units from the Emergency Service Unit and the Critical Response Command. The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau was on hand with M-4 rifles.
Attorney Peter James Johnson spoke about meeting McDonald for the first time right after the shooting as he lay in a Belleview Hospital bed unable to move, speak, or breath on his own.
Upon their second meeting, Johnson helped McDonald draft his statement of forgiveness to Jones.
Last to speak was the younger McDonald, who was not born at the time of the shooting.
“My father’s body and dreams were broken in an instant,” he said. “Many then and now would not have blamed my father if he withered away in anger and resentment. That seemed like the only logical ending to this story.
“However, with the power of prayer and love my father showed this city, this country, and this church the true definition of heroism.”
The McDonald family resides in Malverne, Long Island, where the Steven McDonald Memorial Garden of Forgiveness was dedicated on Sep. 21, 2019.