By Camille Botello | April 26, 2023
The Bronx District Attorney’s office announced that the defendant in the 2017 murder case of FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Jose Gonzalez, the defendant, was found guilty of first-degree murder in Bronx Supreme Court on March 8 after a month-long trial — which included delays and multiple hearings on his mental fitness to appear before the court. Gonzalez, 31, was sentenced on Wednesday.
“Today … closes a long and difficult chapter for the victim’s family and her FDNY colleagues, who have waited for justice for six years,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in the announcement. “Despite the sentencing, Yadi will forever be missed by her loved ones, and the pain will always be there. We take comfort in knowing that her memory will live on through her loved ones and the communities she served while working as an EMT for 14 years.”
According to the DA’s investigation, on the evening of March 16, 2017, Gonzalez grabbed onto the back of Arroyo’s ambulance while she was on duty — riding it and then hopping off to steal a backpack from a passerby. The person who was robbed flagged down Arroyo, who got out of the vehicle to speak to Gonzalez. The defendant then jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance and both Arroyo and her partner told him to exit the vehicle. Gonzalez then put the ambulance in reverse, striking Arroyo, then drove forward while she was pinned under the vehicle.
An off duty MTA police officer nearby saw the incident and handcuffed Gonzalez, a Fordham Heights resident at the time, as he tried to run away after he had crashed the ambulance into a snowbank and tried to escape, the investigation concluded.
Arroyo, a mother of five and a 14-year veteran EMT, suffered multiple injuries and was later pronounced dead at Jacobi Medical Center.
Her death made waves throughout the Bronx and all of New York City. The FDNY unveiled a memorial plaque in her honor on the second anniversary of her death in 2019, and in 2021 the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation renamed Blackrock Playground in Unionport the Yadira Arroyo Playground.
At the park renaming ceremony in 2021, Arroyo’s son Jose remembered his mother as a role model.
“It’s a real honor, privilege and amazing experience to have had such a hero of a mother,” he said at the ceremony. “I know my mom is looking down and she’s very proud of all the faces she sees today.”
Oren Barzilay, the president of the FDNY’s Local 2507, said in a statement that Wednesday’s sentencing finally delivers justice to Arroyo and her family.
“This is a moment many of us thought to be far out of reach for years,” he said. “Now that a sentence has finally been issued, it’s a blessing to know that Yadira’s family and colleagues can be at peace. She was a light in the EMS family taken too soon.”
Barzilay also said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Gonzalez’s handcuffs for the sentencing were engraved with the words “In memory of FDNY EMT Y. Arroyo.”
Other members of the FDNY also extended their support for the final verdict on social media.
“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,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement on the FDNY’s official Facebook page. “We are grateful her killer will never be on the streets again, with no eligibility for parole. 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. We will continue to honor her memory of service to our city.”