Man Charged With Murder in Death of EMT Worker in the Bronx

Emergency medical workers shouted and cried after the arraignment for Jose Gonzalez on Friday. Mr. Gonzalez is charged with running over Yadira Arroyo with an ambulance and killing her. (Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times)

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 were trying 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.

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 he 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.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Benjamin Mueller, Emily Palmer and Al Baker