By Reuven Fenton and Steve Janoski
April 26, 2023 12:53pm
The man convicted of running down FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo with her own ambulance smirked as he was sentenced to life without parole Wednesday by a Bronx judge who ripped him for the “extraordinarily brutal” murder.
Nearly 200 of the late first responder’s family members and colleagues packed into the courtroom exploded into applause as Judge Martin Marcus hurled the book at Jose Gonzalez, a 31-year-old career criminal who had been arrested more than two dozen times before the 2017 slaying.
“It is simply impossible to overstate the horrific nature of the crime,” Marcus told the grinning killer, who wore beige sweats and a white knitted skullcap.
“As she held onto the door… trying to get you out of the driver’s seat, you threw the ambulance into reverse causing her to fall underneath it,” Marcus said.
“As you drove backwards and forwards and turned, the tires repeatedly ran over her and crushed her body until it split down from underneath, and she was left lifeless in the intersection.”
In a statement laden with despair, Leida Acevedo Rosado — mother of the 44-year-old EMT — laid out for the court what Gonzalez had robbed from her and her family.
“You left five children motherless — the little one was only seven,” said Rosado’s message, which her sister read aloud in the courtroom.
“How do you explain to a child that his mommy will never be coming back home? That she will never be able to wipe away his tears and cuddle him when he is scared? That she will never, ever be able to comfort him when he is not feeling well, and nurture him when he needs love?” the statement said.
“All he has right now is a vague memory of her,” Rosado wrote. “There will be no more holidays, no birthdays, no graduations, no walking any of her children down the aisle.
A Bronx jury convicted Gonzalez of first-degree murder in March for killing Arroyo when he stole her ambulance and used it to run her over during a PCP-induced rampage.
Arroyo and her partner, Monique Williams, had been on their way to an emergency call involving a pregnant woman when a passing motorist signaled to them that someone was riding on the ambulance bumper, Williams testified in February.
The pair, who were driving down White Plains Road at about 7 p.m. on March 16, 2017, pulled over to investigate, Williams said.
That’s when Gonzalez ran around the rig and hopped behind the wheel.
Arroyo and Williams fought back, trying to pull the allegedly PCP-crazed man out of the driver’s seat.
“I remember her screaming, ‘Oh hell, no!’” Williams said of Arroyo.
But Gonzalez, a career criminal with 31 prior arrests under his belt, kicked the ambulance into gear even as he fought the two medics, Williams said.
Another witness told the court that Gonzalez reversed the ambulance, hit a car, then lurched forward into an intersection.
That’s when Arroyo fell beneath the wheels.
“I lost sight of her,” said Williams, who retired the day of the horror.
“When we started to go forward, I felt some tumbling underneath us.”
She found Arroyo lying still on the ground. The 14-year-medic with the FDNY later died of her injuries at the hospital.
A surveillance video recording presented by the defense showed Gonzalez walk up to the driver’s side door, open it and climb in. But an SUV obscured Arroyo falling out before the rig started to move.
An off-duty MTA police officer saw the defendant drag Arroyo before crashing into a snow bank, prosecutors said. When Gonzalez tried to flee, the officer tackled and handcuffed him with the help of several civilians.
In court, Gonzalez held a folded piece of paper in his hands — which were shackled with a special set of cuffs imprinted with the words, “In memory of FDNY EMT Y. Arroyo” — and read a brief apology to the family.
“I never knew what was going on,” Gonzalez told the court. “I never meant to hurt anyone. I was intoxicated. It was an accident. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Rosado, Arroyo’s mother, said in her statement she refused to harbor hate in her heart.
“If I hate you, I will keep you here,” Rosado wrote. “And there is no place in my heart for you. This place belongs to [Yadira] and only to her. I need to forgive myself for not hating you. My fight is now with God.”
The judge said he considered the defense’s argument that Gonzalez was high on PCP at the time and didn’t mean to kill her. But the maximum sentence was still warranted, he said.
FDNY officials applauded his decision.
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement that she was grateful Gonzalez will never walk the streets again.
“Yadira Arroyo was an extraordinary EMT who cared for her patients deeply – just as she was doing when she was brutally killed six years ago,” Kavanagh said. “We join her family in our continued mourning of her loss and hope this sentencing can offer a pathway to healing for those who loved her.”
Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, called it “a moment many of us thought to be far out of reach for years.”
“Now that a sentence has finally been issued, it’s a blessing to know that Yadira’s family and colleagues can be at peace,” Barzilay wrote in a statement. “She was a light in the EMS family taken too soon. It is a relief to finally have justice.”
He pleaded not guilty after his indictment.