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” in the second such fatality in the city.
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, told investigators that she pushed the victim, Sunando Sen, 46, on Thursday because “I hate Hindus and Muslims”.
Menendez was taken into custody in Brooklyn by authorities acting on a tip from someone who recognised the suspect from video of the incident that was aired on television, a spokeswoman for the district attorney told Reuters news agency.
“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 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.”
Brown’s statement gave no indication of the victim’s ethnicity or religion or Menendez might have taken Sen to be a Muslim.
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, Campbell said. If convicted, Menendez could face a maximum penalty of 25 years to life.
Witnesses told police a woman appeared to be mumbling and pacing on Thursday evening 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. Brown said Sen died of multiple blunt-force trauma.
After shoving Sen, 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.
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 December 3, 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.
Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive.