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Set Free from Tragic Offense

On January 16, 1996, Harold Mcdonald was running errands when he received a phone call no parent wants to get.

Harold says, “My pastor had told me to rush to the hospital because Shawnee had been in an accident.”

By the time Harold arrived at the hospital his six-year-old daughter Shantaya whom he affectionately called Shawnee had died.

Harold shares, “I couldn't believe it. It's like something punched me in the gut and took the life out of me because (EMOTIONAL) (CRYING) that's all I had.”

Harold, who had sole custody of his daughter, learned she had dropped a picture she had drawn for him in the street. When she went back to pick it up, a car hit her, leaving her with fatal injuries. In his pain and grief, Harold turned his focus toward the driver, who never stopped.

Harold says, “I wanted to be pleasing to God and whatever I can do to be that example, I was willing to do it, even if it hurts. I was willing to forgive.”

By now, the heart-breaking story of Shawnee’s death had hit the local news. What touched the community even more, was Harold’s response when reporters asked if he had a message for the person responsible for taking his daughter’s life.

Harold says, “I pleaded with him to turn himself in. And I said, ‘ love you and God loves you.’”

The next day, Mandrel Swiney turned himself into the police. Harold didn’t press charges. The young man was charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of the accident and released on bond. The following day, Harold visited Mandrell at his home.

Harold recalls, “And here's this young guy, 18 years old, who says, ‘Harold, I am so sorry. I didn't see your baby. I didn't see her. I was going too fast and would you please forgive me?’ As I extended forgiveness to Mandrel, Mandrel began to just cry and he came and hugged me and I had the opportunity to pray with him. Forgiveness wasn't for Mandrel, it was for me. And it started the process of healing instantly.”

More than 500 people gathered at Shawnee’s funeral.  

Harold shares, “I was an example to our community on how to forgive, how to give grace, how to love, how to just let go.”

A year later, Harold fulfilled his dream and opened his barbershop. As he emerged as a strong pillar in the community he was still grieving the death of his daughter.

Harold says,  “I would wake up (EMOTIONAL) where I would dream that she was here with me. And the prayers I would pray is just ‘God, help me. Lord, help me.’”

By then, Harold’s story and gesture of forgiveness had faded from the public eye. Yet, some  still remembered. One was Dalonika who recalls talking to Harold in his shop about his daughter.

Dalonika shares, “That man who was on television, his personality, his ability to forgive, I felt like he was just unreal as-as a person.”

That started a friendship that led to their marriage 3 years later, during that time, Dalonika saw on a deeper level the grief her husband was still going through.

Dalonika recalls, “He still hurt. Did he forgive? He had nothing but good to say about Mandrel. There was no denial that Harold loved this man with a God-like love.”

Harold believes that forgiveness, along with Dalonika’s prayers and support, brought healing, and an end to the nightmares.

Harold shares, “The type of life that I would be living if I would not have forgiven Mandrel would have been a life of pain, life of revenge, life of anger and I would not have met my wife. But because of it I'm able to live in the fullness of life.”

On january 16th, 2021, as they’ve done for years, the family released  balloons to remember Shawnee’s life, one balloon for each year.

Harold says, “Releasing the balloons is significant of releasing love and peace and joy and happiness. And this is what I believe that Shawnee was on this earth for.”

Ever since, Harold found his own healing from grief. He gives people in his barber’s chair more than a haircut. He offers counsel to those struggling with forgiveness. The couple also have a weekly radio show where they minister to married couples. They also co-authored a book on Harold’s journey of forgiveness that led to his total healing.

Dalonika says, “Let God heal your heart and it doesn't matter if it's 7 times 77, give it back to God and say, ‘I choose to forgive" and trust God to heal you.’”

Harold says, “God can heal you and He can set you free from all the struggle, all the pain, all the heartache. You've got to trust that God's got it.”

Feel free to contact Harold & Dalonika McDonald @

Harold & Dalonika McDonald

P.O. Box  82755

Austin, TX  78708



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