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25 Years Later, Paralyzed NYPD Detective McDonald Still Inspiring Others

MALVERN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- He has turned tragedy into inspiration.

In an instant, a gun shot changed Officer Steven McDonald's life. While the injury paralyzed McDonald, it never immobilized his commitment to serve others.

CBS 2's John Slattery spoke with the hero on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of that dreadful day.

McDonald, now 54, is still on the force, despite having his arms and legs paralyzed a quarter of a century ago.

"My wife's love and my son's affection keep me going every day of my life," McDonald said.

McDonald was married less than a year, with a child on the way, when tragedy struck.

It happened in Central Park on July 12, 1986. McDonald and his supervisor encountered three suspected bike robbers. One held a gun to McDonald's head.

"He pulled the trigger on the gun and I watched it explode orange flame out of it. What I remember, how terrifically loud it was," McDonald said.

Shot three times, he was left quadriplegic and still breathes on a ventilator. Shavod Jones, a 15-year-old, was convicted. Instead of revenge, McDonald offered forgiveness.

"Today, 25 years ago, that I was shot, had I sought revenge, I would have been a dead man already," McDonald said.

His wife encouraged him to begin speaking about gun violence. 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.

"When I look back, how it was when we first came home to how it was today, it's truly a blessing as to how it is," Patti Ann McDonald said.

Last year, their son, Conor, now 24, followed a long, family tradition by becoming a police officer.

"To me, he's my hero. He goes through so much pain and goes through it without a whimper," Conor McDonald said.

Last month, Steven McDonald suffered a nearly fatal blood infection, but he's recovered and said he is an instrument of God's peace.

"I want to believe that's the only reason I've survived this long, that God has a plan for me that is different from other people. The only reason I'm here," Steven McDonald said.

When you meet him or hear him speak with his powerful message of forgiveness, you can't help but feel you are in the presence of someone extraordinary.

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.

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