THE BRONX — EMTs slammed the accused killer of their beloved colleague as a coward for declining to show up to a scheduled court appearance on Wednesday, saying it showed he was not brave enough to face them.
"Obviously, he does not have the courage to appear and face the family and the EMTs and paramedics," EMTs union President Israel Miranda said.
The courtroom was flooded with dozens of EMTs despite the absence of 25-year-old Jose Gonzalez, who was inside the Bronx Hall of Justice only one floor away.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez killed EMT Yadira Arroyo after stealing her ambulance and backing it into her on Watson Avenue and White Plains Road March 16, and his attorney Alice Fontier defended his absence in the courtroom.
"Mr. Gonzalez was not brought into the courtroom because he remains in very poor physical condition as well as mental health condition," she said. "He is receiving the treatment that he needs, and we are pleased that is happening."
Fontier also ripped a correction officer for filming a discussion she was having earlier in the day with Gonzalez.
"There was an officer behind the pen recording the interaction," she said. "Obviously this is a case of much interest, but Mr. Gonzalez retains his constitutional rights."
Judge Linda Poust-Lopez said that the accusation would be investigated. Gonzalez is due back in court April 5.
This was Gonzalez's second court appearance for the death of Arroyo, following his arraignment last Friday. He is being held at Bellevue Hospital without bail.
The hearing itself was extremely brief and consisted solely of Gonzalez's decision to not testify before a grand jury.
As Fontier addressed reporters outside the courthouse following the proceedings, dozens of EMTs chanted "Murderer," "We want justice" and "Yadi's life mattered."
Arroyo's partner Monique Williams attended the appearance but declined to speak after.
"This is going to be on Monique's conscience forever. She's broken inside," said FDNY EMT Louis Montalvo, a friend of Arroyo's who is also based out of The Bronx. "Monique's not saying much. When you call her, the first thing that comes out of her mouth is, 'How you doing?'"
Gonzalez has had 25 cases with the Bronx District Attorney's Office, largely for minor offenses like disorderly conduct and marijuana possession, and he was released without bail on an attempted assault charge on Feb. 26, just weeks before Arroyo's death.
The case stemmed from a Feb. 25 robbery arrest where Gonzalez was accused of swinging at a police officer and kicking and shattering the window of a police van, and prosecutor Hayden Briklin requested that bail be set at $5,000, noting that Gonzalez had already been released on an open assault case.
"By this arrest alone, the defendant has proven he cannot follow court orders and stay out of trouble and not get rearrested," she said, according to the court transcript.
However, his lawyer requested that Gonzalez be released on his own recognizance, a motion that Judge David Kirschner granted.
"The court system did not fail him by not setting bail," Fontier said Wednesday. "I can think of very few judges who would’ve set bail on the conditions that were before the court. I am asking, although this is a terrible tragedy, to have some perspective in this matter.”
Arroyo's wake will be held over two days on March 23 and 24 between 2 and 4 p.m. and 7 and 9 p.m. at the Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home at 726 Morris Park Ave. Her funeral will take place on March 25 at 11 a.m. at St. Nicholas of Tolentine R.C. Church at 2345 University Ave.