New York Daily News
Justice delayed is heartbreak multiplied for the family of beloved FDNY Emergency Medical Technician Yadira Arroyo.
Nearly five years after the 14-year veteran first responder’s gruesome on-the-job slaying, her relatives still await the Bronx prosecution of her accused killer — left instead to count sad Christmas mornings and missed birthdays and more than 50 court dates for oft-arrested defendant Jose Gonzalez.
“It has been frustrating for everyone,” said her brother Joel Rosado, who followed his sister onto the job and wears her badge number. “We just want justice to be served.”
Arroyo, 44, left behind five sons after her horrific March 16, 2017, death beneath the wheels of her hijacked ambulance. The youngest was just 7 years old.
Gonzalez and his rap sheet of 31 prior arrests are due back in court on Jan. 13, the latest in a litany of appearances across the last 57 months, with the focus on his mental health and ability to stand trial for the killing.
He will return with a new lawyer, a move likely to again delay the proceedings as Arroyo’s family wonders if the wheels of justice will ever turn their way.
“I cannot speak about what he has done in the past,” said Rosado. “All I can say now is that he took one of the most important people in my life, he took away the mother to five boys and the daughter away from a mother.”
The Bronx district attorney’s office says the case remains on hold despite the findings of an expert witness and a state psychiatrist that Gonzalez was mentally competent to face a jury of his peers. The defense has produced its own experts arguing the accused killer is not competent, and the legal battle drags on.
“There has been a long and arduous process to determine the defendant’s fitness to stand trial, which includes numerous examinations and hearings,” said Patrice O’Shaughnessy, spokeswoman for District Attorney Darcel Clark, noting that the pandemic added to the delays.
“As such, the process toward trial continues. We will continue to pursue justice for Yadira Arroyo no matter how long it takes to resolve this case.”
As the potential mental health defense slowed the pace of prosecution to a crawl, the victim’s loyal family and fellow EMTs and paramedics appeared for every Bronx County Courthouse hearing. But Oren Barzilay, head of Local 2507, the union that represents FDNY EMTs and paramedics said he believed the case against Gonzalez was becoming a farce.
“No justice, five years,” said Barzilay. “It’s an insult what he’s doing to the system, that he’s allowed to carry on this long. Everybody knew Yadira. She was a hard worker, a single mom with kids to take care of.
“What keeps us coming back is we are a family. Everybody knew her. But our members are discouraged.”
Defense attorney Richard Barton, who recently took over the Gonzalez case, declined to comment on the long delays.
The horrors of her last day remain fresh despite the passage of time. Arroyo and partner Monique Williams were driving through the Bronx around 7:10 p.m. when they spotted Gonzalez riding on the back of their ambulance.
The pair pulled over when Gonzalez jumped from the vehicle and tried to steal a passing man’s backpack. When Arroyo stepped out of the ambulance to investigate, the suspect climbed inside, threw the vehicle in reverse and ran her down. The callous killer then put the ambulance in drive and rode over her again.
An off-duty MTA cop and several bystanders tackled Gonzalez as he tried to flee.
His first court appearance, in April 2017, came with a not guilty plea and was followed by dozens of inconclusive Bronx hearings on the plethora of charges in a killing that shook the city.
Gonzalez is also awaiting trial in a separate case from Feb. 25, 2017, when he was charged with attempted assault for allegedly punching a city police officer on a Bronx street, court records show.
Authorities said Gonzalez kicked out the window of a police car after his arrest, but was turned loose after a judge rejected an appeal from prosecutors to hold him on $5,000 bail.
Less than a month later, Arroyo was dead. And the mourning, just like the cycle of court sessions, continues.
“We want the court to find him guilty,” said Rosado, “so we can all finally put this to rest.”