A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform because she has hated Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US and thought he was one was charged on Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.
Erika Menendez was charged in the death of Sunando Sen, who was crushed by a 7 train in Queens, New York, on Thursday night — the second time this month a commuter has died in such a nightmarish fashion.
Menendez, 31, was awaiting arraignment on the charge on Saturday evening, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. She faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Menendez has admitted shoving Sen, who was pushed from behind, authorities 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 told police, the district attorney’s office said.
Sen was from India, but police said it was unclear if he was Muslim, Hindu or of some other faith. The 46-year-old lived in Queens and ran a printing shop. He was shoved from an elevated platform on the 7 train line. Witnesses said a muttering woman rose from her seat on a platform bench and pushed him on the tracks as a train entered the station and then ran off.
Authorities said the two had never met before and witnesses told police they had not interacted on the platform.
Police released a sketch and security camera video showing a woman running from the station where Sen was killed.
Menendez was arrested by police earlier on Saturday after a passerby on a Brooklyn street spotted her and called the police. Police responded, confirmed her identity and took her into custody, where she made statements implicating herself in the crime, police spokesman Paul Browne said.
The district attorney said such hateful remarks about Muslims and Hindus could not be tolerated.
“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare,” he said.
On Dec. 3, another man was pushed to his death in a subway station. A photo of the man clinging to the edge of the platform a split second before he was struck by a train was published on the front page of the New York Post, causing an uproar about whether the photographer, or anyone else should have tried to help him.
A homeless man was arrested and charged with murder in that case. He claimed he acted in self-defense and is awaiting trial.
It is unclear whether anyone tried — or could have tried — to help Sen on Thursday.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicides and shootings.
“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters.
However, commuters still expressed concern over subway safety and shock about the arrest of Menendez on a hate crime charge.