Steven McDonald, the New York Police detective paralysed by a bullet in 1986 who publicly forgave the gunman and became an international voice for peace, has died aged 59.
Mr McDonald had been in hospital after suffering a heart attack.
McDonald was a 29-year-old patrolman on 12 July 1986, when he spotted cycle thief Shavod “Buddha” Jones and two other teens in Central Park. He moved to frisk one of them. Then, the 15-year-old Jones pulled out a weapon of his own and shot Mr McDonald three times. One bullet tore into Mr McDonald’s neck, followed quickly by another to his wrist and a third that lodged behind his right eye. It was the first shot that pierced his spinal column, paralysing him.Doctors told his wife, Patti, who was three months pregnant, that he would not live through the afternoon.
But his story had an unlikely ending – Mr McDonald believed what happened on that day was divine will, intended to turn him into a messenger of God’s word.
On 1 March 1987, the day of their son’s baptism, he had his wife read a statement about his feelings toward the teenager who crippled him.
“I forgive him and hope he can find peace and purpose in his life,” he said.
In the years after the shooting, he became one of the world’s foremost pilgrims for peace. He took his message of forgiveness to Israel, Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
“I have my days when I’m not feeling well – emotionally, physically, spiritually,” he said in 2006. “But it’s been a very, very active life.”
In the years after the shooting he drew attention like a rock star. He met Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela and wrote a book with his wife.
Jones received a ten-year jail sentence for attempted murder.