Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Death by Subway, a New York Nightmare

Ki Suk Han. Webcam/Family photo.

Riding the subway is a way of life for millions in New York City. For the reasonable price of a Metrocard, one can travel clean across the city without worrying about traffic or parking. But twice in the last month, innocent straphangers met a grisly end on the tracks, giving New Yorkers another reason to fear rush hour.

A month ago, 58-year-old Ki Suk Han was killed by an early-afternoon Q train in Manhattan. Han was pushed onto the tracks by an unhinged homeless man named Naeem Davis. Several witnesses saw Davis, 30, in a verbal altercation with Han on the tracks before pushing the older man onto the tracks.

The train slowed, but still collided with the man, sending him flying through the air before being dragged along the tracks about 15 feet. Han would not recover and with the help of surveillance video, police tracked down Davis shortly afterward and charged him with Han’s death.

The incident might well have been relegated to footnote status in the New York media — just another sad New York story — had a simple coincidence not landed it on the front page. A freelance NY Post photographer happened to be waiting for the train as well, and snapped a photograph of Han struggling to clamber up to safety. The Post ran the photo on its cover with the headline “Doomed.”

Sunando Sen.

The sensational photo sparked a nationwide debate about the ethics of publishing a soon-to-be-dead man’s last moments on a tabloid’s front page. One thing this debate did not acheive was a moratorium on subway-pushing deaths.

Just last week, Erika Menendez, a 31-year-old Queens woman, was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime for pushing 46-year-old Sunando Sen in front of an oncoming 7 train. The forceful impact of the subway train crushed Sen to death in front of dozens of horrified onlookers.

Witnesses told police that Menendez had been acting strangely, talking to herself and pacing the platform. By all accounts, she simply pushed Sen to his death from behind without warning or provocation. As in the previous instance, police tracked down the killer shortly after with the help of grainy surveillance video.

According to a press release from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Menendez admitted to Sen’s killing and freely discussed her motive: “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, who has reportedly been in and out of psychiatric treatment centers throughout her adult life, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Sen, a Hindu, was cremated in a religious ceremony on Monday where friends told the New York Times that Sen had emigrated to the US from India more than a decade ago before starting a printing business in Manhattan. His American dream sadly cut short by what the Queens DA described as “every subway commuter’s worst nightmare — being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train.”

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