Woman charged over New York subway death

Sunday 30 December 2012 20.04
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Erika Menendez, 31, was seen pacing the subway platform and muttering to herself before the attack
Erika Menendez, 31, was seen pacing the subway platform and muttering to herself before the attack
A man wait for a subway train in Manhattan
A man wait for a subway train in Manhattan

A woman suspected of shoving a man to his death in front of an oncoming New York subway train has been arrested and charged with "second-degree murder as a hate crime".

It is the second such fatality this month for one of the world's busiest transit systems.

The district attorney for the New York City borough of Queens said Erika Menendez, 31, who was seen pacing the subway platform and muttering to herself before the attack, had told investigators that she pushed the victim, Sunando Sen, 46, on Thursday because "I hate Hindus and Muslims."

Ms Menendez was taken into custody in Brooklyn by authorities acting on a tip from someone who recognized the suspect from video of the incident that was aired on television.

"The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter's worst nightmare - being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train," District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

"Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant's actions can never be tolerated in a civilised society," he said.

The prosecutor's statement quoted Ms Menendez as telling investigators: "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up."

Her alleged admission was an apparent reference to the 11 September 2001, attack on Manhattan's World Trade Center by Muslim extremists who flew two hijacked jetliners into the twin towers.

The district attorney's statement gave no indication of the victim's ethnicity or religion or Ms Menendez might have taken the victim to be a Muslim.

The spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, Meris Campbell, said she did not believe the victim was wearing any clothing that would have led someone to identify him as being a Muslim.

Ms Menendez is awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging her with second-degree murder as a hate crime, an offense that carries a minimum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

The minimum penalty for second-degree murder alone is 15 years to life.

If convicted, Ms Menendez could face a maximum penalty of 25 years to life.

Witnesses told police a woman appeared to be mumbling and pacing before she approached an unsuspecting man from behind on the platform of an elevated station in the borough of Queens.

She then shoved him onto the subway track as the train pulled into the station, witnesses said.

Mr Sen died of multiple blunt-force trauma.

After shoving Mr Sen on Thursday, the suspect ran from the station to the street in a scene caught on surveillance video footage that police released on Friday as they searched for her.

Mr Sen's death was the second this month of a New York subway rider pushed onto the tracks of the city's more than 100-year-old subway system.

On 3 December, Ki-Suck Han was killed after being shoved onto subway tracks in Manhattan as a train entered a station near Times Square.

A suspect, Naeem Davis, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Including Thursday's incident, 139 people have been struck by New York City subway trains so far in 2012, and 54 of them died, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman said.