The man accused of shoving an Asian woman to her death at a New York City subway station has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, police confirmed late Saturday.
The 40-year-old victim, identified as Michelle Alyssa Go of New York City, was waiting for a southbound R train around 9:40 a.m. when she was apparently shoved, according to police.
“This incident was unprovoked, and the victim does not appear to have had any interaction with the subject,” NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.
The man believed responsible fled the scene but turned himself in to transit police a short time later, Sewell said at a news conference with Mayor Eric Adams at the station.
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Police later identified the man as 61-year-old Simon Martial, who has now been charged with murder in connection to the morning assault. His criminal history includes multiple prior arrests and police sources say he'd been on parole.
“He does have in the past three emotionally disturbed encounters with us that we have documented,” Wilcox said.
Investigators believe the man was experiencing homelessness at the time of the assault.
A second woman told police the man had approached her minutes earlier and she feared he would push her onto the tracks.
“He approaches her and he gets in her space. She gets very, very alarmed,” Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox said, describing the earlier encounter. “She tries to move away from him and he gets close to her, and she feels that he was about to physically push her onto the train. As she’s walking away she witnesses the crime where he pushes our other victim in front of the train.”
Saturday’s attack against Go, who was of Asian descent, also raised concerns amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York and around the country. Police officials said the killing, including whether it was a hate crime, was under investigation, but noted that the first woman Martial allegedly approached was not Asian. Martial is Black.
“This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is particularly horrifying for our community,” Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said. She said the community was still mourning the Dec. 31 death of Yao Pan Ma, a Chinese immigrant who was attacked in April while collecting cans in East Harlem.
“These attacks have left Asian Americans across the city and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop,” Fung said in a statement.
In recent months there have been several instances of people being stabbed, assaulted or shoved onto the tracks at stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and at Times Square.
Eric Adams, who has been mayor for two weeks, has noted that a perception of danger could drive more people to eschew the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to draw people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.
“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” the mayor said Saturday. “To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”
State Senator John Liu called on the city to take immediate steps to help people who need mental health services in the wake of several high-profile attacks within a week against Asians.
“It’s 2022 and Asians in New York City and around America still suffer from relentless and hate-fueled attacks on a regular basis," Liu said in a statement. "Mayor Adams has shown tremendous promise in his commitment to address public safety, but hatred doesn’t care about who’s in office."
New York City experienced a significant increase in anti-Asian hate crimes last year. Police data shows incidents targeting Asians rose by 361 percent by December 2021, NBC News reports.