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Woman charged with deadly subway shove

December 30, 2012 6:03:24 AM PST
A woman sought in the death of a man who was shoved in front of a subway train was picked up by police on Saturday after a passer-by noticed her on the street and called authorities.

The subway pusher has been identified as 31-year-old, Erica Menendez, according to the Queens DA. Menendez is being charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.

According to police, Menendez told detectives, "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."

The victim, identified as 46-year-old Sunando Sen of Corona, was shoved in front of a No. 7 train at the 40th Street station in Sunnyside, Queens, Thursday night.

Authorities say there were no words exchanged before Menendez pushed Sen onto the elevated tracks as the train approached just after 8 p.m.

Witnesses say they had no time to react, and passengers on the train had no idea what happened.

"They said that's the last stop on the 7 train, debris fell on the tracks," rider James Callanan said. "That's all they were telling people...People were asking them what happened, and the conductor was like, 'I don't know what happened.'"

Witnesses say that just before the incident,Menendez was talking to herself and pacing.

Bityut Sarker hired Sen to work in his Greenwich Village copy and print store in the mid 90s. Now, he is planning Sen's funeral.

"He's a part of our family," said Sarker.

Sen was not married and did not have children, but he made a lot of friends in his time in the United States.

On Friday night, Sen's friends and family were mourning his loss, and like so many others, wondering why, according to police, he was pushed.

District Attorney Brown said, "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. The victim was allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself. Beyond that, the hateful remarks allegedly made by the defendant and which precipitated the defendant's actions can never be tolerated by a civilized society."

If Menendez is convicted, she faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

This was the second deadly incident involving a subway platform push in the last month.

On December 3, 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han was shoved in front of a train in Times Square. A homeless man, 30-year-old Naeem Davis, was charged with murder in Han's death and was ordered held without bail. He has pleaded not guilty and has said that Han was the aggressor and had attacked him first. The two men hadn't met before.

Being pushed onto the train tracks is a silent fear for many of the commuters who ride the city's subway a total of more than 5.2 million times on an average weekday, but deaths are rare.

Among the more high-profile cases was the January 1999 death of aspiring screenwriter Kendra Webdale, who was shoved by a former mental patient.

After that, the state Legislature passed Kendra's Law, which lets mental health authorities supervise patients who live outside institutions to make sure they are taking their medications and aren't threats to safety.

A schizophrenic man who shoved a New York City woman beneath a subway train in 1999 says the state should have greater power to forcibly hospitalize psychiatric patients.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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