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Detective Steven McDonald Speaks To New Generation of Commanders and Cops

By Beth Sarafraz
Freelance Photojournalist

BROOKLYN, NY -- When Jesus Raul Pintos , the young and innovative commanding officer of Sunset Park's 72 Precinct, arranged for Detective Steven McDonald to come and talk to his cops, "especially the young impressionable officers who might not know about McDonald or about the incident that changed his life forever" [being shot by a 15-year-old perp and cheating death, but not the spinal cord injury that would put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life] he knew for sure that "they certainly could learn from that."

So this past June, McDonald faced two platoons of NYPD's finest who stood with Pintos and his community affairs officer Frank Siclari -- all visibly moved and stunned into silence by McDonald, seated in a motorized wheelchair, telling his story about one day back in 1986 when he "made a mistake" in assessing three teenage suspects as not-so-dangerous kids. He never drew his gun and in the unexpected window of opportunity created by this mistake, one of them shot him three times at point blank range, like hunter to animal -- without mercy.

Newlywed and with his wife three months pregnant, McDonald miraculously survived, but as a quadriplegic, with no body function from the neck down. Since then, says Officer Siclari, "Steven has dedicated his career and his life to educating cops about the importance of tactics and physical safety.  I've been lucky enough to hear his message on a few occasions over the years.  It's informative, inspiring and it never gets old."

But in the wake of a now defunct legislative proposal that would have required cops to shoot to wound rather than kill, even when faced with armed perps on the attack, McDonald's words are especially relevant.  He labeled the proposed bill [created to honor the memory of  Sean Bell, who was shot and killed by police acting in self-defense against Bell, who they believed was armed and dangerous] as "silly" and "dangerous for everyone concerned."

Twenty-four years after the shooting in New York's Central Park, this hero cop who remains an active duty NYPD officer is still a handsome man with a beautiful healing smile. He cannot walk or eat or go to the bathroom or use his arms at all -- "not even to hold my wife," he says, with brutal honesty. But he forgave the perp who shot him [who died in a motorcycle accident three days after serving his full prison sentence].

McDonald shares his story of unfathomable suffering, knowing his presence alone drives home the point that for cops, a "mistake" that takes a second to make, may have consequences for a lifetime.  But he is upbeat and says if he could go back in time to that fateful day in August 1986, "I would duck."

Like the biblical  Job, McDonald also says he still believes in God.  The son who he could never hold in his arms still believes in his dad -- so much so that he has recently become an NYPD cop.

Copyright © 2010 Beth Sarafraz

Beth Sarafraz is a freelance photojournalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, New Jersey Monthly Magazine, The New Jersey Star-Ledger, The Bayshore Independent, The Brooklyn View, Brooklyn Courier-Life newspapers (Bay News, Flatbush Life, Kings Courier), Boxing World, East Side Boxing, The Brooklyn Eagle, and NY Cop Online Magazine.
Beth Sarafraz

Editorís Note:

Conor McDonald, son of Steven and Patti Ann McDonald, was appointed to the NYPD on July 6, 2010. The photo below was taken on July 11, 1989.

                                     Courtesy A/P File Photo / Susan Ragan

Police Officer Steven McDonald, with wife Patti Ann and son Conor July 11, 1989

Steven and Patti Ann co-authored a book with E.J. Kahn III   The Book can be ordered at Amazon.Com as well as other online book sites


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