March 17--A 25-year-old man was charged with stealing an ambulance and killing an FDNY EMT by running her over with the stolen vehicle in the Bronx Thursday evening, police said. Jose Gonzalez, of Fordham Heights, was riding on the back of the ambulance as it was driving south on White Plains Road, near Watson Avenue, in Soundview, police said. At about 7:10 p.m., someone flagged down the driver, Yadira Arroyo, 44, to tell her Gonzalez was on the back bumper. When Arroyo got out of the ambulance to investigate, Gonzalez got in the driver's seat of the ambulance, police said.
Arroyo and her partner, a 30-year-old female who was a passenger in the ambulance, struggled with Gonzalez. Arroyo tried to pull him out of the ambulance, but he put the vehicle in reverse, knocking her to the ground, police said.
Gonzalez then drove over Arroyo, put the vehicle in drive and continued forward toward Watson Avenue, dragging Arroyo across the street, police said. He then turned left onto Watson Avenue and struck two parked cars before coming to a rest.
Arroyo, a mother of five and 14-year FDNY veteran, was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, police said. "Sadly, we're heading to a line-of-duty funeral," said Robert Ungar, spokesman for the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors Local 2507.
Gonzalez attempted to flee the scene, but an MTA police officer and other bystanders held him down, police said. He was taken into custody and later charged with murder, grand larceny and operating a motor vehicle impaired by drugs. Gonzalez has 31 prior arrests, 21 of which are sealed, police said. Of the 10 that aren't sealed, charges include assault, criminal mischief, criminal possession of marijuana and sale of marijuana, they said.
Police and fire officials initially said Arroyo's partner was also hit during the crash, but they later said she remained in the vehicle during the ordeal. She was also taken to Jacobi Medical Center with injuries to her neck and shoulder.
"They were acting very bravely," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "This person had no business being in the ambulance."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said EMTs should not have to encounter this type of danger. "They do crucial work -- they save lives -- but they should not ever have to be subjected to violence. And yet, that danger always exists for them," he said at a news conference.
In a statement released on Facebook, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called the deadly crash a "terrible tragedy.""This is a terrible tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with the entire EMS family, as well as these two individuals, their families and friends, during this difficult time," he said in the statement. ". . . I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices that are made by our first responders -- especially the sacrifice made by one EMT this evening."