NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A funeral service was held Friday for a New York City police officer known for publicly forgiving a teenage gunman who in 1986 left him paralyzed from the neck down. Detective Steven McDonald was remembered by family, friends and fellow officers at a packed St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill joined scores of police officers to watch police motorcycles and a bagpipe band escort the hearse down Fifth Avenue to the front of the church. They stood in silence as pallbearers took McDonald's casket inside.
Wife Patti Ann McDonald and son, NYPD Det. Connor McDonald, listened as Steven McDonald was remembered as someone who never showed self-pity and encouraged others to forgive. Connor McDonald also eulogized his father.
"My father was a real super man," said Connor McDonald.
The paralyzed NYPD veteran died Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island with his family, friends, and colleagues by his side, the NYPD said. He had been admitted to the hospital after a heart attack.
A teenager shot McDonald on July 12, 1986, in Central Park. The bullet pierced his spinal column. Doctors told his wife that he would not live through the day.
After the shooting left him a quadriplegic, McDonald became an advocate of peace and reconciliation. He visited police stations, schools, church groups, and more to speak about nonviolence and forgiveness, the NYPD said. He traveled to Israel, Northern Ireland, and Bosnia to spread the message, the AP reported.
"No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement. "Like so many cops, Steven joined the NYPD to make a difference in people's lives. And he accomplished that every day. He is a model for each of us as we go about our daily lives. He will be greatly missed, and will always remain a part of our family."
McDonald believed what happened was God's will to turn him into a messenger of God's word. On March 1, 1987, he read a statement about his feelings toward the teenager who crippled him and said, "I forgive him."
"Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us."
Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown called McDonald "a true hero of the City of New York."
"Steven was an inspiring human being and a man of deep and abiding faith who, when confronted by adversity early in his police career, responded with courage, grace and dignity," Brown said in a statement. "I was proud to call him my friend."
Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in McDonald's honor.
In honor of the fallen officer, the NYPD Aviation Unit will conduct a flyover involving 10-15 aircraft from 11 a.m. -2 p.m. The aircraft will fly over parts of Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan, including the Hudson River, Central Park, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and the Verrazano Bridge. The aircraft will be operating at an altitude of 1300-1500 feet.
McDonald's son Conor is an NYPD sergeant.
With the Associated Press
Det. Steven McDonald was an icon of mercy & forgiveness, a prophet of the dignity of all human life. My prayerful condolences to his family.— Cardinal Dolan (@CardinalDolan) January 10, 2017
NYPD Det. Steven McDonald was a hero in every sense of that word. He put his life on the line to make our city the safe place it is today.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 10, 2017
NYPD Det. Steven McDonald was a great friend & man of enormous courage & spirit. My prayers are with Patti Ann/Conor. I mourn his death. RIP— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) January 10, 2017