A man accused of stealing an ambulance and then driving it over a fire department medic, crushing her to death, told reporters he wasn't guilty as he was escorted out of a police station surrounded by angry uniformed emergency medical technicians, who hurled insults. "I'm innocent. I didn't do nothing," said Jose Gonzalez, 25, who was set to be arraigned in a Bronx courtroom later yesterday on charges including murder. In a twist, authorities said he lived on the same block as the Fire Department Emergency Medical Services technician he is accused of killing, Yadira Arroyo. Police said Gonzalez, who has 31 prior arrests, was high on drugs when he hopped on the back of Arroyo's ambulance as it drove through the Bronx on Thursday evening on its way to a routine medical call. He has a history of violent and erratic behavior with police, they said. Arroyo, who was 44 and had five sons, worked as medic for 14 years and was incredibly dedicated, responding to calls even during asthma attacks, her colleagues said yesterday. Fire officials draped black and purple bunting over Arroyo's stationhouse in a somber ceremony as uniformed officers saluted and bagpipers played "Amazing Grace." "Yadi was the matriarch of the station," Lt George Lampon said, choking back tears. "She was not only a mother of five, but a mother to the 100-plus people who worked here. She will live on in the lives she saved and the people she helped." Another medic, Anastasia Rabos, said Arroyo was a great mentor and friend. "She was a very humble person.
I love her, we all love her and we will never forget her," she said. Fire officials said she was bravely doing her job when she and a partner over after being alerted that someone was on the back of the vehicle. When they got out to check, Gonzalez ran around the ambulance, got in and threw the vehicle in reverse, authorities said. Arroyo was struck and became trapped beneath the wheels. Gonzalez was captured moments later by a passing transit police officer and a civilian bystander after the ambulance hit several parked cars and got stuck on a snowbank, authorities said. Video posted on Twitter by a bystander captured the horrific scene as it unfolded. It showed the ambulance speeding across an intersection with one of its doors open, its lights flashing and Arroyo's body being dragged beneath the vehicle. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said yesterday EMTs do crucial work and while they know it can be dangerous, they still don't expect violence. He said Arroyo was extremely brave. "We will with her family celebrate her life," he said. "We will mourn her death and stand strong together.
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