(NEW YORK) — A woman who allegedly told New York City police she pushed a man onto the subway tracks because she hated Hindus and Muslims has been charged with murder as a hate crime.
Erica Menendez, 31, allegedly told police that she “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 was taken into custody Saturday morning after a two-day search, and when detectives were interviewing her she allegedly made the statements implicating herself in Thursday night’s subway-platform death.
“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,” Queen District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. “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.”
Menendez was due to be arraigned Saturday evening. She could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the second degree murder charge.
On Thursday night, a woman shoved a man from a subway platform at Queens Boulevard, and the man was crushed beneath an oncoming train. Police had searched the area for her after the incident.
The victim was Sunando Sen, identified by several media outlets as a graphic designer and Indian immigrant who opened a print shop, Amsterdam Copy, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Sen was struck by the No. 7 train after the unidentified woman allegedly pushed him from the northbound platform at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard at 8:04 p.m. on Thursday.
Witnesses told police they had seen the woman mumbling to herself, pacing along the platform. She gave Sen little time to react, witnesses said.
“Witnesses said she was walking back and forth on the platform, talking to herself, before taking a seat alone on a wooden bench near the north end of the platform. When the train pulled into the station, the suspect rose from the bench and pushed the man, who was standing with his back to her, onto the tracks into the path of the train,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said earlier today. “The victim appeared not to notice her, according to witnesses.”
Police released brief surveillance video of the woman fleeing the subway station, and described the suspect as a woman in her 20s, “heavy set, approximately 5’5″ with brown or blond hair.”
It was New York’s second death of this kind in less than a month. On Dec. 3, 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han of Queens was shoved onto the tracks at New York’s Times Square subway station. Two days later, police took 30-year-old Naeem Davis into custody.
On Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked whether the attack might be related to the increase of mentally ill people on the streets following closures of institutions over the past four decades.
“The courts or the law have changed and said, no, you can’t do that unless they’re a danger to society. Our laws protect you,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Aaron Smith, CNN
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Boris Sanchez, Ralph Ellis, Joe Sutton and Azadeh Ansari, CNN