They lived on the same Bronx block, but on opposite ends of the city’s system for treating the sick and emotionally disturbed.
He was an occasional patient, a 25-year-old Bloods member whose family said he showed symptoms of schizophrenia and depression and received psychiatric treatment after run-ins with the police. She was a caregiver who had worked for 14 years as an emergency medical technician with the New York Fire Department and had two sons who hoped to follow her into the profession.
Around sunset on Thursday, four miles from their block, they met at the back of an ambulance. The man, Jose Gonzalez, who appeared heavily intoxicated in cellphone videos recorded a short while before, had hopped on the back bumper of an ambulance for a joy ride, riding three blocks before someone flagged down Yadira Arroyo, the emergency medical technician, who was driving, the police said.
Ms. Arroyo, 44, was working overtime and on her way to help a pregnant woman. She stopped the ambulance and got out to figure out what was happening.
Yadira Arroyo Credit Fire Department of New York, via Associated Press
Mr. Gonzalez had just thrown a teenage boy against a fence and stolen his backpack, a criminal complaint said, pretending to be a police officer and telling the boy he was arresting him. Now, Mr. Gonzalez was saying that he had hurt his hand and needed help. Ms. Arroyo, who was familiar with the strange and sometimes scary encounters that emergency medical workers endure, told him to return the backpack.
Instead, Mr. Gonzalez took a few steps, then spun around and ran into the open driver’s side door, Deputy Chief Jason Wilcox, commanding officer of Bronx detectives, said. Ms. Arroyo tried to pull him out. From the passenger seat, her partner fought him, but Mr. Gonzalez put the ambulance into reverse, trapping Ms. Arroyo underneath and eventually dragging her into an intersection.
Her death plunged the city’s medical workers into mourning and sent ripples beyond the city. The specter of an intoxicated, mentally ill man turning an ambulance into a weapon was a stark reminder of the random dangers of a profession whose practitioners often get second billing to their firefighter colleagues. And Mr. Gonzalez’s case — the second in recent months in which a man with a history of crime and mental illness killed a public safety worker in New York City — renewed concerns about the shortcomings of the systems that treat violent and vulnerable people.
The episode was all the more chilling for how the lives of Mr. Gonzalez and Ms. Arroyo had brushed up against each other in recent years. Several people knew both of them from their block, on Creston Avenue, a few blocks south of Fordham Road and just east of the Grand Concourse.
At the supportive shelter for homeless people where Mr. Gonzalez lived, he had a reputation for lashing out when he was not taking his medication, sometimes over laundry money. A few doors down, at the apartment building where Ms. Arroyo was raised, she was known to work extra hours to provide for her five children, ages 7 to 24, and to spread the gospel of emergency medical work.
The ambulance on Thursday night. Mr. Gonzalez had hopped on the vehicle for a joy ride, and when Ms. Arroyo got out to confront him he climbed into the driver’s seat, officials said. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
“She told her children, ‘You’ll see things and be scared, but you must have a good head on your shoulders and serve and protect your community,’” said Monica Salazar, the fiancée of Ms. Arroyo’s half brother. “And that’s what she died doing: protecting her partner.”
The partner, Monique Williams, who was injured, was treated at Jacobi Medical Center and released. More than 500 emergency medical workers lined the ramp of the hospital early on Friday and watched as Ms. Arroyo’s body was driven away in an ambulance to the city Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.
Mr. Gonzalez had stopped taking his medication several months ago, his brother, Andrew Mendez, 17, said. In the hours before he hopped onto Ms. Arroyo’s ambulance, he posted cellphone video online of himself with lipstick smeared around his gaptoothed grin, his tongue wagging from his mouth and his left hand dripping with blood. Behind him was a cracked windowpane. He rapped along to the words of the hip-hop artist Chinx, referred to his mother’s death when he was young and, in one video, shouted, “Blood up,” interjecting an expletive, a reference to his decade-long membership in the Bounty Hunter set of the Bloods gang. He had a cut next to his left eye.
Around the same time, Mr. Gonzalez called Mr. Mendez and told him he had just been jumped by members of the Crips gang. He talked about wanting revenge.
“I’m always telling him, ‘Just wear the flag on our block,’” Mr. Mendez said of his brother, referring to the red Bloods colors. “But he goes to a Crip block wearing the Blood flag, so of course he’ll get jumped.”
Worried, Mr. Mendez interrupted a subway ride to Brooklyn to try to find his brother, but Mr. Gonzalez had stopped responding to calls.
Mr. Gonzalez’s uncle, Reynaldo Gonzalez, 54, said his nephew grew depressed when his mother died. Mr. Mendez said he had started forgetting things and talking to himself after a bad car accident two or three years ago. “His head ain’t the same,” Mr. Mendez said.
Mr. Mendez said his brother had been hospitalized 10 to 15 times as a result of his mental illness, most recently after an arrest in February. Mr. Gonzalez’s father, also Jose Gonzalez, said that he was unhappy about how the authorities had handled his son.
“The police and how they handle people with mental health issues are wrong,” he said. “Something tragic happened, and I am very sorry.”
Just three weeks ago, Mr. Gonzalez was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and attempted assault, both misdemeanors, after the police said he swung at an officer, and then kicked out the window of a police van. The Bronx district attorney’s office said its prosecutors asked a judge to have Mr. Gonzalez held on $5,000 bail, but the judge ordered him released. A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said that prosecutors also requested bail on a case last June in which Mr. Gonzalez was accused of punching someone, but that a judge had ordered him released then, too.A memorial for Ms. Arroyo near her apartment on Creston Avenue in the Bronx. Mr. Gonzalez lived on the same block. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
Mr. Gonzalez, charged with murder, was ordered jailed by Judge Kim Wilson on Friday afternoon in a courtroom packed with dozens of Fire Department employees. Prosecutors said he drove over Ms. Arroyo twice, despite knowing she was there. His lawyer, Alice Fontier of the Bronx Defenders, requested a medical evaluation. In all, the police said, he had 31 previous arrests, several of them for possession or sale of marijuana.
Mr. Gonzalez had probably passed Ms. Arroyo on the street outside their homes, where some neighbors were upset by the construction of the supportive housing shelter. Ms. Arroyo, though, focused on her work and her family. She taught a half brother, Joel Rosado, 30, how to deliver oxygen when he was training to become an emergency medical technician. When he graduated from the training academy, he said, “she was ecstatic.”
“I did it because I wanted to be like her,” Mr. Rosado said.
So did two of her sons, Edgar, who is in his 20s, and Kenny, 19. Edgar failed a first test to become an emergency medical technician but plans to retake the class; Kenny said he was taking the course now.
About six years ago Ms. Arroyo met her boyfriend on the job, a paramedic in the Bronx. They often meditated and did yoga together, and occasionally crossed paths on the job.
Ms. Arroyo was the eighth emergency medical worker to be killed in the line of duty since 1994; the last was in 2005, when a lieutenant died after surgery to treat a hernia suffered on the job. In 2002, an emergency medical technician died after his ambulance was rammed by a drunken driver.
Robert Ungar, a spokesman for the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors F.D.N.Y. union, said that more than 100 members a year were assaulted on the job.
The union’s president, Israel Miranda, said, “Anytime you wear a uniform and it shows some sort of authority in New York City, your life is always in danger.”
Accused EMT killer smirks in court, pleads not guilty — (New York Post)
By Priscilla DeGregory and Emily Saul
April 5, 2017 | 2:33pm | Updated July 14, 2017 | 10:16am
The accused killer of an FDNY paramedic callously smirked and winked at photographers in court Wednesday — as authorities revealed he admitted being blitzed on drugs when he ran down Yadira Arroyo with her own ambulance.
Jose Gonzalez — who faces life in prison without parole — also sparked outraged gasps and snorts of disbelief from Arroyo’s kin and 100-plus EMTs when he pleaded “not guilty” to first-degree murder.
According to court papers filed afterward, Gonzalez confessed to smoking “two blunts” laced with PCP and taking the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel before Arroyo’ s March 16 slaying in The Bronx.
Gonzalez, 25, also babbled nonsense after he was busted for allegedly running over and dragging the beloved mother of five to her death while trying to steal her ambulance, the papers said.
“I hopped on the ambulance to save the kids from the fire,” he rambled.
“I was riding on the back of the ambulance, it stopped, I got off, and got into the cab, I tried to speak to the passenger, she was yelling, I tried to drive away, the the police crashed into the ambulance.”
Gonzalez also bizarrely claimed he would leave in a Maserati when the cops were finished with him, and promised to give them each “a Maserati and a million dollars” because he thought they were “cool” and would help him get custody of his kids.
“I’m not a murderer,” he said. “I’m a nice guy.”
He also predicted: ”I’m going to get a lawsuit and I’m going to get a Bentley.”
Gonzalez, cuffed behind his back throughout the proceeding, mumbled something to the furious EMTs in the gallery, but none of them could make out what he said, union president Israel Miranda said afterward.
“He had a smirk on his face,” Mirada fumed.
“How can this man plead not guilty? The evidence speaks for itself.”
The president of another EMT union local, Vincent Variale, added: “Everyday he is in jail, New Yorkers are safer.”
Gonzalez lived in a homeless shelter down the block from Arroyos’s home, and outside the courthouse, an unidentified woman held a sign that said, ”Jose — Yari helped you and brought you to the hospital 3 times!! WHY DID YOU MURDER HER,”
The FDNY said it could neither confirm nor deny the claim.
Defense lawyer Alice Fontier told the judge that both she and Gonzalez had received death threats.