Times Square Victim Was Violently Shoved By Fleeing Crime Suspect
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Friends of a New Jersey nurse who died after hitting her head on a sidewalk when she was shoved by a fleeing crime suspect in Times Square said her death is a sign that New York has become too dangerous.
The friends of Maria Ambrocio expressed heartbreak and frustration at her funeral at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Monday. Ambrocio, a 58-year-old oncology nurse, was a parishioner of the church.
“What I know is that for the past few weeks and months, we’ve heard on the news about shootings and everything,” said Norma Lardizabal, who was with Ambrocio when the incident occurred Friday, Oct. 8.
“And we’re just afraid to go anywhere in New York because of what is going on in Times Square,” Lardizabal told Currents News.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. Police said the suspect, Jermaine Foster, 26, of Irvington, New Jersey, had stolen a cell phone from a 29-year-old woman and was running on Broadway near 41st Street when he knocked Ambrocio down, police said.
The victim hit her head so hard on the pavement that she never regained consciousness. She died the next day.
Foster was arrested and has been charged with murder, robbery and burglary. He was ordered held in jail without bail.
Foster’s family told reporters that he suffers from mental illness and had not taken his medication that day. Ambrocio’s tragic death is shedding new light on New York City’s worsening mental health crisis, in which people with untreated mental illness are being arrested as suspects in violent attacks.
ThriveNYC, the program started by the de Blasio Administration in 2015 to provide help for people with mental health issues, has not seen tangible results, critics charge.
The program spent a combined $103 million on refurbishing centers in Manhattan and the Bronx designed to provide housing and assistance for 2,400 people. To date, however, only a few dozen people have moved in.
ThriveNYC, which is slated to have an operating budget of $350 million in 2022, has been rebranded as the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.
There are other troubling signs for New York. So far this year, felony assaults are up 8% over 2020 while shooting incidents are up 4% and hate crimes are up 93%, according to NYPD statistics. In addition, subway crime has increased by 50% in September, with 52 robberies in the transit system compared to 44 in August. Grand larcenies were also on the rise, with 96 in September, up from 64 in August.
The crises can be felt on the city’s streets, Ambrocio’s friends said.
“I feel like this is like going back to the ’80s,” said Rosally Daniel. “And it’s just really sad. I just really hope the city gets to manage it. You’ve seen subway crimes and homeless people just gathering in the streets.”
Daniel said she feels sorry for those with mental health problems. “I don’t feel any hatred for them,” she said.
Ambrocio, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in the 1980s, worked for CarePoint Health, serving as an oncology nurse at the Bayonne Medical Center, for 25 years. When the pandemic hit, she pivoted to helping COVID-19 patients. “She was a frontliner,” Daniel said.
The funeral marked the second time people gathered in a church to pay tribute to Ambrocio. A memorial Mass requested by the Philippine Consulate was held at St. Francis of Assisi Church in midtown Manhattan the day after her death.