UPDATED 03/18/17 12:42 a.m.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A suspect appeared in court on murder and other charges after authorities say he hijacked an ambulance and then struck and killed a FDNY emergency medical technician in the Bronx.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Jose Gonzalez, 25, is charged in the death of EMT Yadira Arroyo, 44, on Thursday evening in the Soundview section of the Bronx.
Gonzalez lived in an unsupervised residence on Creston Avenue in the Bronx run by Volunteers of America. In a heartbreaking twist, the building happens to be on the same block as Arroyo lived.
Gonzalez faced a judge in Bronx Criminal Court on Friday afternoon, along with Arroyo’s fellow EMS workers.
“He intentionally ran over her again. This was no mistake. This wasn’t, ‘I didn’t see you.’ This was murder,” said Israel Miranda, head of the EMS union.
Angry and heartbroken, dozens of EMS workers gathered outside a Bronx Criminal Courtroom for the hearing as Gonzalez faced a judge.
“The person that’s accused of this tragedy has to be held accountable for his actions,” Miranda said.
When Gonzalez appeared in court, he had visible facial injuries and swelling. Right before his arraignment, he went to NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln for injuries he suffered when he was subdued at the scene.
“Mr. Gonzalez was arrested in a very rough fashion — I’ll put it that way,” said defense attorney Alice Fontier. “He has some severe bruising and a possibly dislocated jaw.”
Fontier could hardly get through a statement without interruptions from the emotionally charged EMS workers.
“Mr. Gonzalez is severely mentally ill,” Fontier said. “Whatever happened in this case was certainly…”
“He’s a criminal!” the EMTs interrupted.
“Whatever happened in this case was not intentional,” Fontier said.
The EMTs chanted their slain colleague’s name: “Yadi! Yadi! Yadi!”
Gonzalez has been charged with murder, grand larceny and operating a motor vehicle impaired by drugs. He was ordered remanded without bail and his attorney asked for a medical evaluation.
The courtroom was packed with a tearful crowd of EMTs. Gonzalez looked out to the spectators when he walked out and said, “Where’s my family?” Carrasco reported.
In court, the prosecutor told the judge that Gonzalez currently has two open cases – one for assaulting a security guard, the other for attacking a police officer.
“The criminal record is not accurate that is being portrayed at this time, and. Gonzalez has only very few misdemeanor convictions and has never been charged with anything more serious that a misdemeanor,” Fontier said.
Earlier in the day, CBS2 obtained video of what appeared to be the suspect riding on the back of the ambulance prior to the incident.
When he was hauled out of the 43rd Police Precinct station earlier Friday, Gonzalez told reporters: “I’m innocent. I didn’t do nothing.”
Steven Johnson lives in the same shelter as Gonzalez, and he also knows victim Arroyo.
“I actually worked for a Chinese restaurant down the street for almost a year, and I used to deliver to her,” Johnson said. “That’s what kind of makes this very hard.”
Gonzalez has no serious felonies on his record, but many contacts with police. Sources said he is a member of the Bloods street gang with 31 prior arrests – most recently on Feb. 25 for criminal mischief.
Earlier arrests include assault, drug charges, and public lewdness, Aiello reported. On three occasions, he was taken into custody as an emotionally disturbed person.
Police said Gonzalez was believed to be under the influence of drugs when he jumped on the back of 44-year-old Yadira Arroyo’s ambulance as she and her partner were responding to a call Thursday night.
“So, they stopped the ambulance, they got out to see what was happening,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Thursday. “This person, in turn, went around the other side of the ambulance and got into the driver’s side.”
That’s when authorities said he put the ambulance in reverse, hitting Arroyo. Her partner was still trying to fight him off.
Gonzalez then crashed the ambulance into several parked cars, police said. Soon after, the ambulance got stuck with its wheels spinning on snow and ice.
Cell phone video of the chaotic scene showed Arroyo in the street, her partner distraught, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.
Arroyo’s partner ran to her screaming, unable to help.
“That was the most sad part for me because her partner was there just bawling,” the witness said.
In the midst of the chaotic scene, K-9 MTA Officer Daniel McDade ran over to help.
“Fast action by an MTA police officer and a civilian. They were able to subdue the individual before he could injure anyone else or do any further damage,” Nigro said.
“I want to thank those good Samaritans who helped apprehend the perpetrator,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “A lot of heroism was on display amidst a great tragedy.”
Arroyo is mother of five who served the FDNY for 14 years.
Gonzalez is due back in court on March 22. Many EMS workers vowing to attend every one of Gonzalez’s court hearings.