A Queens woman who told police she shoved a man in front of an oncoming No. 7 train to his death because she has hated Muslims since Sept. 11 was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.
Erika Menendez, 31, of Rego Park, told authorities she pushed 46-year-old Sunando Sen onto the tracks, according to the Queens district attorney's office. She was charged Saturday with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
“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 Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. "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 awaiting arraignment Saturday night in Queens Criminal Court. She was in custody and couldn't be reached for comment, and it was unclear if she had an attorney.
Authorities said Menendez was seen walking back and forth on the platform of the 40th Street station and talking to herself before sitting down, alone, on a wooden bench near the north end of the walkway. When the train pulled into the station shortly after 8 p.m., she allegedly got up off the bench and pushed Sen.
The suspect then fled the platform, running down a flight of stairs to the turnstile area and down a second flight to Queens Boulevard, witnesses said.
Police said Menendez was taken into custody Saturday in Brooklyn after a passerby recognized her from a surveillance video that captured her leaving the station. Menendez was later identified by witnesses in a lineup.
According to prosecutors, 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.”
Sen, a native of Calcutta, had been in the United States for more than 20 years and was part owner of New Amsterdam Printing on Amsterdam Avenue, according to his three roommates. Sen had opened the business six months ago and worked seven days a week, commuting by subway daily, his friends and roommates said.
Mayor Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen's death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city's annual homicide and shooting totals.
"It's a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York," Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.
But commuters still expressed concern over subway safety and shock about the arrest of Menendez on a hate crime charge.
"For someone to do something like that ... that's not the way we are made," said David Green, who was waiting for a train in Manhattan. "She needs help."
Green said he caught himself leaning over the subway platform's edge and realized maybe he shouldn't do that.
"It does make you more conscious," he said of the deaths.
Such subway deaths are rare, but other high-profile cases include the 1999 fatal shoving of aspiring screenwriter Kendra Webdale by a former psychiatric patient. That case led to a state law allowing for more supervision of mentally ill people living outside institutions.