NEW YORK -- A hero NYPD detective, known for forgiving a gunman who left him paralyzed, has died days after suffering a heart attack. He was 59.
Steven McDonald died shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital, where he'd been admitted Friday, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said.
McDonald was appointed to the NYPD on July 16, 1984.
CBS New York reports he was investigating a bicycle robbery in Central Park on July 12, 1986 when he was shot three times. Doctors told his wife that he wouldn't live through the afternoon.
He was left quadriplegic and had to breathe on a ventilator.
He publicly forgave the teen shooter, Shavod Jones, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In the years after the shooting, McDonald became one of the world's foremost pilgrims for peace. In 1995 he met with Pope John Paul II. That same year he was promoted to detective. He spoke at two Republican conventions.
In 2004, he was promoted to detective first grade.
McDonald took his message of forgiveness to Israel, Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
"No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world," said Commissioner O'Neill. "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."
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, called McDonald "a true American hero."
"Steven McDonald was the most courageous and forgiving man I have ever known," Lynch said in a statement. "Despite the tremendous pain in his life, both physical and emotional, his concern for his fellow police officers and for the people of New York City never wavered. Since that fateful day in 1986, Steven dedicated his life to fighting hate and encouraging forgiveness through his actions. He was a powerful force for all that is good and is an inspiration to all of us. His, was a life well lived. We join his family, a true New York City police family, his friends and fellow officers in prayer and mourning the loss of a truly special man."
Numerous New York politicians, public figures, and entities took to social media to pay tribute to McDonald.
The teen that shot McDonald, and served nine years behind bars, was killed in a motorcycle accident just days after he was released from prison.
Last year, McDonald saw his NYPD officer son promoted to detective.
McDonald is survived by his wife, Patti Ann, and his son, Conor.