New York: A 31-year-old woman suspected of shoving an Indian immigrant in front of a subway train has been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime after she told the police that she hated Hindus and Muslims since 9/11. Prosecutors Saturday identified the woman, who allegedly shoved India-born Sunando Sen of Queens, in front of a subway train Thursday as Erika Menendez of Bronx.
"(She) said in sum and substance '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," Queens District Attorney Richard A Brown said in a statement.
Witnesses cited by CNN said a woman paced the platform and talked to herself Thursday evening shortly before pushing Sen as the 11-car train entered the station. The body of 46-year-old Sen, a graphic designer for posters who ran a small copying business called New Amsterdam Copies on the Upper West Side, was pinned under the second car after it came to a stop.
"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 9/11," said the accused.
The woman made "statements implicating herself in the death of Sunando Sen," Paul Browne, the New York Police Department's chief spokesman, said earlier. Security video showed a person running from the scene.
Menendez was identified Saturday afternoon in a lineup, Browne said. She was recognized earlier on a street in Brooklyn by a passerby who called 911, the police spokesman said. The caller said she resembled the woman in the video.
"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," said Brown, the district attorney. "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 is expected to be arraigned by Sunday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. By charging her with murder as a hate crime, the possible minimum sentence she faced would be extended to 20 years from 15 years, according to prosecutors.
Ar Suman, a Muslim, and one of three roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Sen in Elmhurst, told the New York Times that he and Sen often discussed religion. Though they were of different faiths, Suman said, he admired the respect that Sen showed for those who saw the world differently than he did. Suman said he once asked Sen why he was not more active in his faith and it resulted in a long philosophical discussion.
"He was so gentle," Suman was quoted as saying. "He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things." Reacting to the suspect woman's statement, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations repeated its call for America's political and religious leaders to speak out forcefully against growing anti-Muslim hate in American society.
"We again urge our nation's leaders to speak out forcefully against the rising level of anti-Muslim hate in American society that is being fueled and exploited by a vocal minority of Islamophobes," said CAIR-NY Executive Director Muneer Awad.