When a small New Jersey community hospital was overrun with Covid patients, a cancer nurse dutifully showed up for work every night.
With the worst days of the pandemic coming to an end on Friday, nurse Maria Ambrocio, 58, traveled to Times Square with a friend. But their exit became tragic when it was thrown to the ground by a man who had ripped off a cell phone and was running away, police and Philippine Consulate General officials said.
Ms Ambrocio, from Bayonne, NJ, was taken to Bellevue Hospital with a head injury and died after being removed from the intensive care system on Saturday.
After falling to the ground, the suspect, Jermaine Foster, 26, crashed into a policeman who arrested him, police said. He was sentenced to jail on Sunday for murder and theft, according to police and court records.
The death of a Filipino American nurse in a random violent street crime has sparked outrage from Filipino government officials and Eric Adams, the president of the Brooklyn borough who will likely become the city’s next mayor.
The consulate said in a Facebook post that Ms Ambrocio was run over “by someone who has been described as a mentally ill homeless person.” It appears to be the latest incident in the city’s mental health crisis, which has seen people with serious and untreated mental illnesses arrested for crimes such as pushing people into the subway, killing sleeping homeless people. and assault people of Asian origin.
The city has struggled to find an effective cure, said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.
“Our city needs to come together and solve these problems, and those of us who work in these areas are willing and able to help,” he said. “May his death not be in vain. “
Although police do not believe Mr Foster targeted Ms Ambrocio in a hate crime, the consulate, which Ms Ambrocio had just visited on Friday before her death, said in its post that the murder was the latest violence against a Filipino. by a homeless and mentally ill. Consular officials called for a more visible police presence in Times Square and more attention to mental health issues, especially among the city’s homeless.
“How many more Maria Ambrocios do we have to cry before the streets are made safe again?” the consulate said in the post, which called him “our kababayan,” a term used to describe his fellow Filipinos.
Mr Adams, the Democratic mayoral candidate, condemned Ms Ambrocio’s death in a Twitter message, criticizing the criminal justice system for failing to identify dangerous people and for failing to remove them from the streets.
“Again and again we see our city deteriorate – and we can’t allow it to continue,” Adams said. He called for expanding a law that allows judges to force people with mental illness to receive treatment.
Mr Foster was arrested in September and charged with forcible touching after groping a 30-year-old woman in Times Square, police said. Prosecutors asked for the bail to be set at $ 3,000, but a judge released Mr. Foster instead.
Prior to the incident which killed Ms Ambrocio, Mr Foster broke into a 30-year-old woman’s apartment in the garment district earlier on Friday, smashed furniture and demanded money, not leaving until after she gave him $ 15, police said.
Mr Foster, whose last known address was in Irvington, NJ, was separately charged with theft and burglary in this incident. His lawyer at the Legal Aid Society declined to comment.
The consulate said it would hold a memorial mass for Ms Ambrocio on Monday at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street.
Ms. Ambrocio worked for 25 years at the Bayonne Medical Center, where she administered chemotherapy to cancer patients. For the past 19 years, Dineen Olivera has worked alongside him on the night shift.
Ms. Olivera recalled that her colleague was a dedicated nurse who loved to travel and was very active in her church and the Filipino community. She was eager to return to the Philippines to celebrate her father’s 90th birthday in September, but the country went into custody and Ms Ambrocio’s father later contracted Covid-19 and died, Ms Olivera said.
During the pandemic, their 12-hour shifts often lasted much longer, but Ms Ambrocio came to work conscientiously, Ms Olivera said. They cried as the patients fought for their lives, but still found reasons to laugh. As intense as the workload is, Ms Ambrocio has never sworn, as nurses often do to relieve stress, Ms Olivera said with a chuckle.
“She came to work every day and she fought like the rest of us,” Ms. Olivera said. “She was very dedicated.”
She said it was ironic that her friend was killed by someone she would have given anything to had he been her patient, and Ms Olivera hoped he would pay for his actions.
“She had so much more life to live on, and for her to be interrupted by what appears to be a career criminal, it’s just a tragedy, and it’s awful,” she said.