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A Detective’s Story: Faith, Forgiveness and Hope

NYPD’s Steven McDonald, Shot in the Line of Duty, Shares Message of Peace at GCU

Lakewood, N.J., Apr. 8, 2010—No one would blame Steven McDonald if he were bitter. After all, what else would you expect from the New York Police Department detective whose stellar career was derailed by three bullets from a teenager’s gun—bullets to the head and neck that turned the once-thriving cop and soon-to-be father into a quadriplegic unable to do much of anything on his own?

But bitter isn’t in Det. McDonald’s vocabulary, nor does it have any place in the powerful message of reconciliation, nonviolence, and purpose that he brings to the Georgian Court University Lakewood campus at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, in the Casino Auditorium. The wheelchair-bound NYPD officer, who barely speaks above a whisper and is dependent on a tracheotomy to breathe, is a headline speaker for the university’s Values in Action series of presentations, films, and lectures that reflect GCU’s core values: respect, integrity, justice, compassion, and service.

“What an incredible role model this man is for our students and everyone else,” says Captain Maureen Rossi of the GCU Department of Security, which is sponsoring Det. McDonald’s talk. “He reminds us to think of the things that upset us, and what it takes for us to be able to forgive people. His story of faith and forgiveness is remarkable. He’s amazing.”

The 15-year-old shooter in the 1986 Central Park incident, Shavod Jones, fired three bullets into Det. McDonald’s head, neck, and arm. At the time, the 28-year-old officer had been married for less than a year, and his wife was two months pregnant. Doctors told Patty Ann McDonald to put him in an institution, but she ignored them, choosing to focus on their faith. Together, they pushed through grueling surgeries, medical setbacks, and the emotional toll of if all.

In time, Det. McDonald reached out to Shavod Jones, and forgave him for the shooting. The unlikely pair planned to talk publicly about nonviolence, but only three days after serving a nine-year prison term, the convicted assailant died in a motorcycle crash.

That didn’t stop the detective from sharing his story and inspiring others. Today, he talks to audiences worldwide about his journey through anguish and anger to peace and purpose. His ‘can-do’ attitude even motivated his wife to run for public office, and his son, now a college student, is considering a career in public service.

Hearing about hope and redemption from a police officer might strike some listeners as odd, but Det. McDonald’s experience highlights the human side of law enforcement, says Capt. Rossi.

“When it comes to perceptions of the police, it shouldn’t always be about being in trouble,” she adds. “All too often, the expectations of the law and the badge are negative, but we work hard to bring the positive to light, too.”

“After hearing Det. McDonald, I’m hoping that those in attendance realize how important it is to forget and forgive and let go,” says Capt. Rossi. “We have to understand that there are much more important things in life.”

Tickets are $5 per person in advance; $10 per person at the door. The event is FREE to current GCU students with ID. Reservations are required, and can be made through the Office of Conferences and Special Events at or 732.987.2263.

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at One Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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