Charged with murder as a hate crime; pushed Sunando Sen to death thinking he was a Muslim
NEW YORK: Erika Menendez, the woman wanted for pushing an Indian businessman to his death from a New York City subway platform yesterday, was arrested today, and charged with murder as a hate crime.
Menendez, 31, was picked up by police after she was spotted near Bedford Ave. and Empire Blvd. in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, law enforcement sources and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said, reported the Daily News.
During questioning, Menendez allegedly said: “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.”
Menendez allegedly shoved Sunando Sen, 46, in front of an oncoming No. 7 train at the 40th St./Lowery stop in Sunnyside about 8 p.m. Wednesday, the sources said, said the News report.
The deranged woman — who witnesses said was mumbling to herself but never said a word to Sen before the fatal shove — sprinted downstairs from the elevated tracks after the attack. She remained on the lam for more than 24 hours. According to the report, several tips were called in, including one from her brother, after cops released surveillance images and a sketch of the pudgy suspect, believed to be about 5-feet-5 and 190 pounds.
Sen, a college-educated graphic designer had recently opened his own printing business in Manhattan. The Calcutta native settled in the city in the early 1990s to attend New York University. The unmarried Sen had no relatives in the U.S., and his parents are dead, reported the Post.
Reports in the New York Post and Daily News yesterday said that the victim was hardworking, gentle and kind, who aspired since he came to the US to be his own boss, and had only recently, six months ago, opened along with a business partner the New Amsterdam Printing Co.
According to reports and eyewitnesses, the victim didn’t know his assailant, and was pushed to death on to the tracks of the number 7 train which came hurtling in at the 40 St. station, around 8 p.m.. He was preparing to take the train back home to his residence in Queens, NY.
“He was a nice and quiet and very good person,” said his roommate Ar Suman, 33, reported the News. “Seven days a week he worked. He wanted to be his own boss.”
“He was very excited to have his own business,” said Suman, a cab driver. “His goal was to have his own business.”
Sen’s business partner was trying to reach relatives in India with word of the stunning death — the second subway shove fatality of the month, police sources said.
“He was so gentle and nice,” said another roomate, M.D. Khan, of the unmarried victim. “He was such a nice guy. Always happy. It’s unbearable.”
Sen had virtually no chance of survival as his squat assailant, waited until the train pulled into the elevated 40th St./Lowery St. station before shoving him into its path. That particular station has a narrow platform.
The victim was crushed by the first two cars of the train as horrified passengers watched helplessly. The dead man never saw his killer coming in the seconds before the fatal shove.
Sen’s death is the second such horrific murder on the tracks of the subway platforms of New York City. Earlier this month, on Dec ember 3rd, Ki-Suck Han, 58 years old, died after he was pushed onto the tracks at the 49th Street station in Manhattan. Naeem Davis, a 30-year-old homeless man, has been charged with murder in that case, which allegedly involved an altercation between the two men. That incident sparked a furor after a photographer captured images of the imminent death of the victim, and got it published.
While shaken commuters expressed horror at Sen’s seemingly random violence, transit officials said there was little that can be done to prevent those bent on harming fellow passengers inside a subway station.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota expressed sympathy for the most recent victim at an unrelated press conference yesterday, saying the agency was cooperating with the police in the search for the suspect.
After prior instances when riders have fallen or been pushed onto the tracks, some observers have suggested the installation of platform doors. The barriers, found in some other subway systems, prevent people and debris from falling into the tracks, said the Journal report.
But the MTA has said that such platform doors are prohibitively costly given the other expenses of keeping the aging system running. “If we lived in a world of completely unlimited available dollars, yeah, there may be a way to do it,” Lhota said. “I don’t think that this is something that can be solved by spending more money in the subway system.”