Det. McDonald urges Bay Ridge kids to forgive
Shot cop tells students to have compassion
A police detective who was shot in the line of duty 30 years ago and was left a quadriplegic came to St.Patrick Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge on Friday and delivered a powerful message of faith, hope and forgiveness to students who were riveted by his every word.
Det. Steven McDonald, who frequently visits schools in New York City to talk to kids, was also the first person ever to use the St. Patrick Academy’s newly built wheelchair ramp. The Rev. Msgr. Michael Hardiman, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church, blessed the ramp with Holy Water before McDonald ascended the ramp in his wheelchair and entered the auditorium.
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.
One could hear a pin drop during McDonald’s hour-long talk, in which he described in detail the circumstances of his 1986 shooting and talked about how he believes his willingness to forgive the teen who shot him saved his life.
McDonald, who is Catholic, also implored the students to love one another and work to stop violence.
“I come from a family of police officers,” he said. His family members have a combined 300 years of service to the New York Police Department. His son Conor McDonald, who followed him and became a cop, is an NYPD sergeant in a Manhattan precinct.
“Our calling as police officers is based on our Catholic faith. I feel honored to be a New York City Police officer. On my worst days I feel very good about myself,” the detective said.
He also asked the students how many of them had relatives who were police officers. Many of the kids raised their hands.
McDonald recounted the events of July 12, 1986, the day he was shot.
There was a major drug problem in New York City at the time and cops like McDonald were doing their best to catch the drug dealers. Many of the drug dealers were teenagers, he said.
“I went to work on a summer’s day,” he told the students.
McDonald went out on patrol that day 30 years ago with Sgt. Peter King, whom 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 found them in a meadow.
He recalled that he saw something sticking out of the sock of the 13-year-old. When McDonald went to take a closer look, however, the 15-year-old, later identified as Savod Jones, pulled out a gun and pulled the trigger.
McDonald told the students he remembered seeing “a reddish-orange flame jumping out of the gun.”
Jones shot McDonald 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.
At the time, McDonald was married for less than a year. His wife Patti was pregnant with their son.
McDonald noted that in the 19th Century, Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was later canonized as a saint, had a convent built the exact same spot where he was shot. “I believe it is hallowed ground,” he said.
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.
McDonald had a difficult decision to make. But he felt that God was talking to him and he decided to listen to God. “I forgave the boy who shot me. I know that if I didn’t forgive the boy who shot me, I would have died,” he said.
“You can forgive those who hurt you,” he told the students.
Jones did spend time in prison and was eventually released. He was killed in a car crash in 1995, nine years after he shot McDonald.
McDonald and the students ended the session by reciting the Holy Rosary together.
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