SOUNDVIEW — The MTA police officer who tackled the suspect who allegedly stole an ambulance and ran over an emergency medical technician wasn't supposed to be anywhere near The Bronx scene — but said he ended up there due to terrible traffic, or perhaps divine intervention.
Officer Dan McDade, who lives on Long Island, was headed to an overtime shift as a K9 officer with his 4-year-old Belgian Malinois dog, "Droga," at Grand Central Station on Thursday.
Normally he doesn't commute through The Bronx to get to work, but traffic on the Bruckner Expressway was heavy so he used the navigation app Waze on his phone to find a faster way — which brought him near the corner of White Plains Road and Watson Avenue just as a drug-addled man in a hijacked ambulance fatally struck an EMT and tried to make a getaway, police said.
"I just had to act," McDade said, adding that he knew something was wrong when he saw the ambulance driving erratically, striking cars and veering up onto snowbanks. "He was a threat. He was hurting somebody."
He leapt from his vehicle, gun drawn, and approached the ambulance to find Jose Gonzalez, 25, in the driver's seat. When Gonzalez refused to get out of the car, McDade yanked him out of the ambulance and, with the help of two other good Samaritans, pinned him to the ground.
McDade told the two other people to keep hold of Gonzalez as he ran towards EMT Yadira Arroyo, 44, a 14 year member of the FDNY who was fatally struck by Gonzalez after he hopped into the driver's seat and hijacked it, striking her and her partner. Arroyo later died from her injuries at Jacobi Hospital.
"My heart goes out to the victim's family," McDade said.
McDade usually spends his days patrolling Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North stations with Droga, who was named after NYPD officer Det. James Zadroga, who died of respiratory disease as a result of the toxic air near Ground Zero after the September 11 attacks.
This time, Droga stayed in the car as McDade intervened.
To the Good Samaritans who helped him, McDade says, "thank you."
He added that he doesn't know if it was the traffic app or divine intervention that brought him to Soundview at that exact moment, on his 38th birthday, but he's glad to have helped in any way.
"Something got me there," he said.