MATT NAHAM Apr 26th, 2023
The hijacker convicted of murdering veteran FDNY EMT Yadira “Yadi” Arroyo with her own ambulance by repeatedly running over the mother of five and dragging her down the street back in 2017 has been sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.
Jose Gonzalez, 31, learned his fate Wednesday in Bronx Supreme Court, where victim impact statements, including one from Arroyo’s mother, were read in court.
“I am left with a lifelong feeling of sadness,” said the statement from Arroyo’s mother, according to ABC 7. “You killed Yadi. You ran her over not once, but multiple times. You could have stopped. Her life mattered.”
The March 16, 2017, slaying of the 44-year-old mother of five sons happened in the evening hours. Jurors found that Gonzalez ran over Arroyo with her own ambulance and dragged her body down the street after hijacking the vehicle.
“[T]he defendant grabbed on to the back of the victim’s ambulance and rode on it, then jumped off and stole a backpack from a young man. The robbery victim flagged down EMT Yadira Arroyo’s ambulance and she got out of the vehicle and spoke briefly to Gonzalez. The defendant then jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, and Arroyo and her partner, who was in the passenger seat, told him to get out,” prosecutors said. “Gonzalez put the car in reverse, striking Arroyo, then drove forward, pinning her under the vehicle and dragging her across the intersection. The defendant crashed the vehicle into a snowbank and exited the ambulance.”
Yadi Arroyo died at the hospital.
After Gonzalez crashed the ambulance, he was tackled by an off-duty MTA cop who witnessed the defendant drag Arroyo down the street. Citizens aided in the arrest.
According to prosecutors, it was always clear that Gonzalez was the person behind the wheel of the ambulance:
According to the investigation, on the evening of March 16, 2017 in the vicinity of Watson Avenue and White Plains Road, the defendant grabbed on to the back of the victim’s ambulance and rode on it, then jumped off and stole a backpack from a young man. The robbery victim flagged down EMT Yadira Arroyo’s ambulance and she got out of the vehicle and spoke briefly to Gonzalez. The defendant then jumped into the driver’s seat of the ambulance, and Arroyo and her partner, who was in the passenger seat, told him to get out. Gonzalez put the car in reverse, striking Arroyo, then drove forward, pinning her under the vehicle and dragging her across the intersection. The defendant crashed the vehicle into a snowbank and exited the ambulance.
What was less clear was Gonzalez’s competence to face the first-degree murder case.
As Law&Crime reported in March following Gonzalez’s conviction, the case took years to reach its conclusion after numerous delays. Questions surrounding Jose Gonzalez’s competency to face trial and COVID-19 presented numerous challenges for the court system. Gonzalez was previously ruled incompetent to stand trial, which resulted in a psychiatric stay in May 2022. By September of last year, however, he was restored to competency.
“I never meant to hurt anyone, I was intoxicated, please forgive me,” Gonzalez reportedly said in court Wednesday, alluding to the fact he was high on PCP and marijuana at the time of the murder. “I never knew what was going on … I never meant to hurt anyone. It was an accident. I’m sorry,” he reportedly added.
But Judge Martin Marcus, cognizant of Gonzalez’s dozens of previous arrests and the facts surrounding the murder of Arroyo, issued the maximum punishment of life without parole.
“You drove back and forth, back and forth” over the victim’s body “until [she] was lifeless,” the judge said, according to PIX 11. “It’s hard not to overstate the severity of the crime.”
In a statement, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh called Arroyo “an extraordinary EMT who cared for her patients deeply.” She said that caring for patients was what the 14-year veteran first responder was doing “when she was brutally killed 6 years ago.”
“We are grateful her killer will never be on the streets again, with no eligibility for parole,” the commissioner said. “We join her family in continued mourning of her loss.”
FDNY EMS Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay said in a statement to Law&Crime that the yearslong delay in the murder case impacted the victim’s grieving family and colleagues deeply.
“This is 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 said. “She was a light in the EMS family taken too soon. It is a relief to finally have justice.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement that years of waiting for justice has finally ended with Gonzalez sentenced to prison forever. “Today, Jose Gonzalez was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the horrific and senseless death of Yadira Arroyo, a mother of five. It closes a long
and difficult chapter for the victim’s family and her FDNY colleagues, who have waited for justice for six years,” Clark said. “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.”
Earlier Wednesday, Clark tweeted that Arroyo’s family and “others affected by violence shared their stories to elevate, engage, and effect change.”
“During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we held the Bronx 2023 Tribute to Crime Victims,” Clark said. “A powerful evening that inspired us all.”