Nurse dies after she's knocked to ground in Times Square, drawing outrage from Filipino govt officials

Ms Maria Ambrocio (pictured) was visiting Times Square when she was knocked to the ground by Jermaine Foster. PHOTO: MARIA LUNINGNING AMBROCIO/FACEBOOK

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - When a small community hospital in New Jersey was overrun with Covid-19 patients, a cancer nurse dutifully showed up for work every night.

Last Friday (Oct 8), with the worst days of the pandemic over, the nurse, Ms Maria Ambrocio, 58, visited Times Square with a friend. But their outing turned tragic when she was knocked to the ground by a man who had snatched a mobile phone and was running away, police and officials at the Philippines consulate said.

Ms Ambrocio, of Bayonne, New Jersey, was taken to Bellevue Hospital with a traumatic brain injury and died after she was taken off life support on Saturday.

After she fell to the ground, the suspect, Jermaine Foster, 26, crashed into a police officer who arrested him, police said. He was ordered held in jail on charges of murder and robbery on Sunday, according to police and court records.

The death of a Filipino American nurse in a random violent street crime drew outrage from Filipino government officials and Mr Eric Adams, the mayoral candidate.

It was the latest incident in the city's mental health crisis, which has seen people with serious and untreated mental illnesses arrested in crimes that include shoving people on the subway, killing sleeping homeless men and assaulting people of Asian descent.

Though police do not believe that Foster targeted Ms Ambrocio, the Consulate-General of the Philippines said in a Facebook post that the killing was the latest violence against a Filipino committed by a person who was homeless and mentally ill. Consular officials called for a more visible police presence in Times Square and more attention to mental health issues, particularly among the city's homeless.

Foster had been arrested in September and charged with forcible touching after he groped a 30-year-old woman in Times Square, according to police. Prosecutors asked for bail to be set at US$3,000 (S$4,058), but a judge released Foster instead.

Before the incident that killed Ms Ambrocio, Foster broke into a 30-year-old woman's apartment in the garment district earlier last Friday and demanded money, leaving after she gave him US$15, police said.

Foster was charged with robbery and burglary in that incident.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.