THE BRONX — A gang member with a history of mental illness stole an ambulance and plowed over an FDNY emergency medical technician, killing her Thursday night, sources said.
Yadira Arroyo, 44, and her partner were responding to a call in Soundview about 7 p.m., when pedestrians flagged them to down to let them know a man was riding on the back bumper, police said.
They pulled over at the corner of Watson Avenue and White Plains Road where both EMTs hopped out and Arroyo, who'd worked for the FDNY for 14 years, went around to the back of the ambulance to check it out, police said.
Jose Gonzalez, 25, who goes by "Breezy Blood" and was high on drugs, then ran to the front of the ambulance, got into the driver's seat and threw it into reverse, officials said.
The medical technicians tried to stop him, but Gonzalez knocked Arroyo to the ground and ran her over as he continued onto White Plains Road and plowed into a 2014 Honda Pilot and a 2007 Toyota Camry, both of which had people in them, police said.
Gonzalez then slammed into a parked Lincoln Towncar before putting the ambulance in drive, dragging Arroyo into the intersection and turning left onto Watson Avenue where he crashed into a 2007 Infiniti G35 and a 2000 Kia Sportage, police said. People in the other cars weren't injured.
Gonzalez, who sources said is a Bloods gang member and was high at the time of the crash, hopped out of the ambulance and tried to make a run for it, but an on-duty MTA K9 officer, Dan McCade, tackled him to the ground and took him into custody, officials said.
Gonzalez was charged with murder, grand larceny and driving while on drugs, police said.
As he was walked from The Bronx's 43rd Precinct stationhouse early Friday, he told reporters, "I’m innocent, I didn’t do anything," according to the New York Post.
Sources said Gonzalez had been arrested 31 times since 2004 on various charges including marijuana and assault though many of the police records are sealed.
Gonzalez, who sources said has a history of mental illness, was busted for turnstile hopping in Midtown on May 14, 2014, sources said.
Gonzalez was cuffed again on Dec. 17, 2014, for public lewdness in Washington Heights, sources said.
Then on Jan. 31, 2015, he was arrested for selling weed in The Bronx, and again on Jan. 9, 2016, sources said.
He was arrested for assault and harassment on June 9, but released the next day with an order of protection against him, court records show.
He was arrested again on Feb. 25 for harassment and property damage, but was again released the next day, records show.
Gonzalez is due back in court for both the June and February cases on March 30.
Video from the chaotic scene Thursday night shows the driver motionless on the ground as her partner, who has been identified as Monique Williams, leans over her, crying and yelling, "My partner! My partner!"
Arroyo, a mother of five, was later pronounced dead at Jacobi Hospital, police said.
Her partner was treated for injuries to her neck and shoulder, police said.
Arroyo, who worked out of Station 26 in Morrisania, is the eighth FDNY EMT to die in the line of duty, and the third woman, Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
"It's a sad night for everybody in the department," he said at a press conference later at the hospital.
Friends were heartbroken by Arroyo's death, but remembered her as a loving mother devoted to helping others.
"She really was a beautiful person in and out. Very humble and realistic. One you could talk to. She was an excellent mother," said longtime friend Mari Almanzar.
Almanzar found out about her friend's death about 2 a.m. and quickly searched through the news for information.
"I thought this was a nasty sick joke when I saw it on Facebook," she said.
"I'm numb. It doesn't seem real. She was so young and full of life. Her biggest concern was always making sure her kids were OK," Almanzar added.
Almanzar, who used to live near Arroyo, recently moved and hadn't been able to see her friend as often as she liked, she said.
"Last time I saw her, it was like we never stopped seeing each other," she said.
Arroyo was survived by her five children, a fiancé, a sister and five brothers, according to her brother, Joel Rosado.
"She was just a lovely person. She would give you the shirt off your back. It's just so awful," said Liz Perez, whose husband is the super for Arroyo's building and has known her for five years.
The mayor also extended his condolences to Arroyo's family and colleagues Thursday.
"We know our EMTs are brave, they do crucial work, they save lives, but they should not ever have to be subjected to violence," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference Thursday night.
At the St. Patrick's Day parade Friday morning, firefighters in formal dress saluted a banner commemorating Arroyo as it was walked past.
A small collection of candles were placed in a box covered in tinfoil outside Arroyo's ambulance station which flew the American flag at half mast Friday morning.
FDNY members gathered at about 4:30 p.m. as black and purple mourning bunting was placed on top of the Boston Road station house.
An EMT member broke down before the bunting was raised and dozens of Arroyo's colleagues saluted after the bunting was put in place.
Nigro attended the ceremony and remembered the EMT as a selfless and loving person.
“We will with her family celebrate her life, mourn her death, stand strong together as this department has done for 152 years. We will be there for one another," Nirgo said.
“She served the city as a hero and she died as a hero. Let’s not forget that.”
Gonzalez was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court Friday afternoon on first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter and robbery charges.
He was held without bail and is due back in court on March 22.