A homeless mugging suspect accused of killing a cancer nurse by shoving her to the ground as he fled a crime scene faces murder charges - and was freed on a groping allegation just last month.
Jermaine Foster, 26, was suspected in two robberies within two hours near crime-riddled Times Square and was sprinting away from one crime scene when he barreled into Maria Ambrocio. He now faces murder charges after Ambrocio was taken off life support - with the NYPD also revealing that Foster was arrested for groping a woman in Midtown Manhattan last month, but later freed.
Ambrocio, a 58-year-old oncology nurse from Bayonne in New Jersey, was preparing to see her family for the first time since the pandemic began, but was confirmed dead Saturday night after fighting for her life at Bellevue Hospital.
Ambrocio was making her way through the Crossroads of the World after stopping at the Philippines Consulate in Midtown when Foster bowled her over while allegedly fleeing the scene of a crime.
Jermaine Foster (pictured) is facing murder charges in the death of a New Jersey cancer nurse who he allegedly slammed headfirst into the pavement while fleeing a robbery
Foster, 26, swiped a 29-year-old woman's phone at nearby West 41st Street and Broadway, police said. As Foster fled, he knocked down Ambrocio, who suffered head trauma, according to the New York Post.
'They just pulled the plug on her. She's gone,' Maria Ambrocio's brother Carlito Spa Maria said Saturday night.
Carlito had previously said that Maria 'doesn't have much time,' her blood pressure is dropping and she is 'brain dead.'
Just a month before slamming into Ambrocio, Foster was charged with forcible touching after he allegedly groped a woman’s buttocks on West 36th Street and Broadway, according to police. Foster was taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation - the same facility where Ambrocio died - but the suspected murderer was released shortly after.
The senseless tragedy comes as the city's crime rate continues to soar, with many blaming the violence on a court system that has gone soft on criminals.
Maria Ambrocio, 58, was walking through Times Square Friday afternoon when she was bowled over by Foster
Ambrocio, 58, had just been to the Phillippines Consulate in Midtown Manhattan and was headed home after lunch
A nurse who worked with Ambrocio, 70-year-old Emilia Cruz, said she was walking with her as Foster knocked her down.
'There were lots of people and we were trying to maneuver,' Cruz said. 'I heard a big thump like something hit the concrete and, you know, it was loud so I said 'Wow, oh My God. What's that?' and I looked down and I saw her blouse, I didn't see the face and I said, 'Oh my God, Ning,' I call her Ning,' Cruz said.
'I said 'Ning, what happened? Wake up,' and she was out,' she added. 'She was already unconscious. She is not answering me. I keep picking her up. She was frothing from her mouth. And I said, 'Call 911.'
Cruz said Ambrocio was married and had step-children and loved music, traveling and most of all, helping people.
“She is like a sister to me, a younger sister. She’s a good nurse, an excellent nurse,” Cruz noted.
‘The incident is the latest in the series of violent acts committed by mentally-ill individuals against members of the Filipino Community in New York City since the start of the year,’ The Consulate General of the Philippines in New York wrote in a post on its Facebook page, referring to the spike in crimes against the Asian-American community that have happened since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ambrocio is an oncology nurse from Bayonne, New Jersey who family members say hadn't seen her relatives throughout the entirety of the pandemic
Emilia Cruz (pictured center), who was standing alongside Ambrocio when she was knocked down, said she was an 'excellent nurse' and like a younger sister to her
‘Beginning January, we have seen several of our kababayan, most of them senior citizens, violently assaulted by individuals with mental health issues. We have joined calls for authorities to take the necessary steps, including heightened police visibility, to protect the public after we noted the surge in anti-Asian hate incidents that targeted some of our kababayan.’
The post added, ‘We also supported calls for authorities to take the necessary measures to address mental health issues, especially among the homeless. We reiterate these calls as we mourn our loss but we also ask ourselves: How many more Maria Ambrocios do we have to mourn before the streets would be made safe again?’
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis asked residents to pray for Ambrocio in a Facebook post earlier Saturday, calling her attack 'an unprovoked assault by a deranged man.'
The homeless man had committed another crime an hour and a half earlier when he forced himself into a woman's apartment on Sixth Avenue and 38th Street, police said.
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis asked residents to pray for Ambrocio earlier on Saturday, calling her attack 'an unprovoked assault by a deranged person'
Cruz, visibly upset by the loss of her friend, said Ambrocio was married