(APP) – Jerry Wolkowitz, a longtime EMT and journalist, has died nearly six months after a brutal, allegedly racially motivated beating left him on life support. He was 56.
Wolkowitz, described as an “innocent soul” by younger medics he took under his wing, was walking near his Harding Road apartment on the morning of May 1 when authorities believe 26-year-old Jamil S. Hubbard of Sayreville beat him and dragged him into a parking lot.
Hubbard is believed to have driven his own Chevrolet Malibu over Wolkowitz before stealing Wolkowitz’s Kia Forte.
Police arrested Hubbard in Sayreville the same day, and Wolkowitz’s Kia was also found there.
Wolkowitz was hospitalized for weeks before being taken to a long-term care facility, where he stayed until his kidneys failed, friends said. Family members took turns to visit him each week until he died.
A son of Holocaust survivors, Wolkowitz worked as a photojournalist and independent photographer, EMT and ambulance supervisor and, most recently, as supervisor at Transcom in Jersey City. He was a life member of the Freehold First Aid and Rescue Squad.
“It’s so profoundly heartbreaking that this has happened,” said Noel Olivarius, chaplain of the Freehold First Aid and Rescue Squad. “Jerry was nothing but kindness and goodness. His family has endured more than anyone.”
Much of Wolkowitz’s work has appeared in the pages of the Asbury Park Press and on APP.com.
“It’s an absolute tragedy when such a vibrant life ends under such senseless circumstances,” said Hollis R. Towns, Press executive editor and vice president for news and Northeast regional editor for the USA Today Network.
In the months that followed the assault, Wolkowitz’s loved ones remained by his side through infections and organ failures.
“Jerry is the type of person that would be more than happy helping other people than he would be worrying about himself,” close friend Eddie Parze told the Press in a May interview.
Wolkowitz, he said, was “the type of person who would go out of his way for others, wouldn’t expect anything in return.”
Police originally charged Hubbard with attempted murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and bias intimidation. A grand jury later added charges of armed robbery, eluding and theft.
Hubbard has two prior convictions in state superior court, records show, one for endangering in 2014 and another for drug dealing in 2015. He received a 364-day jail sentence on the drug charge.
Hubbard “explained that he chose him because he was a white man,” Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Keri-Leigh Schaefer said in a September court hearing. Although Hubbard had never met Wolkowitz, he wanted to kill him because of his race, she said.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has not confirmed whether it will pursue new charges against Hubbard following Wolkowitz’s death, but he did confirm that the case is before the Middlesex County’s Office of the Medical Examiner, which also takes cases from Mercer and Monmouth counties.
Hubbard has remained in jail pending trial.
A funeral is scheduled at 2 p.m. Friday at the Beth-El Perrineville Cemetery in Millstone, Olivarius said.
“It’s just so unjust and just so cruel,” she said, “but I’m actually relieved that he’s finally at peace.”
A Gofundme campaign originally set up to offset Wolkowitz’s medical and legal costs will now go to pay for his funeral expenses, Wolkowitz’s friends confirmed.
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