When a small community hospital in New Jersey was overflowing with Covid patients, a cancer nurse showed up to work diligently every night.
On Friday, just as the worst day of the epidemic was coming to an end, the nurse, Maria Ambrosio, 58, visited Times Square with a friend. But police and officials at the Philippine consulate said their journey became tragic when he was knocked to the ground by a man who snatched a cellphone and fled.
In Bayonne, NJ’s Mrs. Ambrosio was taken to Bellevue Hospital with a brain injury and died on Saturday after being removed from life support.
After falling to the ground, suspect Jermaine Foster, 226, collided with a police officer who arrested her, police said. He was remanded in custody on Sunday on charges of murder and robbery, according to police and court records.
The death of a Filipino-American nurse in a random violent street crime has angered Filipino government officials and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who will likely be the city’s next mayor.
It was the latest in a series of mental health crises in the city that have seen serious and untreated mentally ill people being arrested for crimes such as pushing people on subways, killing sleeping homeless men and attacking people of Asian descent. The city has struggled for an effective remedy, said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance.
“Our city needs to come together to solve these problems and those of us who work in this area are willing and able to help,” he said. “Let his death not be in vain.”
Although police do not believe Mr. Foster targeted Ms. Ambrosio, the Consulate General of the Philippines, who visited Ms. Ambrosio on Friday before her death, said in a Facebook post that the latest violence against a Filipino was committed by a homeless and mentally ill person. Consular officials called for more attention to be paid to the visible presence of police in Times Square and to mental health, especially among the homeless in the city.
“How much more do we have to mourn Maria Ambrosios before the roads are safe again?” The consulate said in the post, referring to him as “our Kababayan”, a term used to describe a Filipino.
Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, condemned the death of Mrs. Ambrosio. Twitter post, To blame the criminal justice system for failing to identify dangerous individuals and remove them from the streets.
“Again and again, we see our city deteriorating – and we can’t let it go,” he said. Adams said. He called for the extension of a law that would force judges to treat people with mental illness.
According to the police, Mr. Foster was arrested in September and charged with forcibly touching a 300-year-old woman in Times Square. Prosecutors sought bail of three thousand dollars, but a judge, Mr. Foster left.
Before killing Mrs. Ambrosio, Mr. Foster broke into furniture in the apartment of a 300-year-old woman in Garment District on Friday and demanded money, leaving her after paying her ১৫ 15, police said.
Mr. Foster, whose last known address was Irvington, NJ, was charged separately with robbery and theft in the incident. Her lawyer for the Legal Aid Society declined to comment.
The consulate said it would hold a memorial service for Mrs. Ambrosio at St. Francis of Assisi Church on s1st street on Monday.
Mrs. Ambrosio also worked for 25 years at Bayonne Medical Center, where she gave chemotherapy to cancer patients. For the past 19 years, Dinine Olivera has worked with him on night shifts.
Mrs. Oliveira remembered her colleague as a dedicated nurse who loved to travel and who was extremely active in her church and the Filipino community. She was expected to return to the Philippines to celebrate her father’s 30th birthday in September, but the country went into lockdown and Mrs Ambrosio’s father later died of a Covid-1 contract, Mrs Olivera said.
During the epidemic, their 12-hour shifts often lasted much longer, but Mrs. Ambrosio came to work responsibly, Mrs. Olivera said. Patients fought for their lives, they cried, but still found a reason to laugh. No matter how intense the workload, Mrs. Ambrosio never cursed, as nurses often do to relieve stress, Mrs. Olivera said with a smile.
“He came to work every day, and he fought it like the rest of us,” Mrs. Oliveira said. “He was very dedicated.”
She said it was ironic that her friend had been killed by a man who would have given her everything if she had been sick, and Mrs. Oliveira hoped he would pay for what he did.
“He had a lot more life to live, and to sum it up by what seems to be a career criminal, it’s a tragedy and it’s horrible.”