Update: A 31-year-old woman, Erika Menendez, was charged with murder as a hate crime Saturday for allegedly pushing the victim, Sunando Sen, to his death in front of the 7 train in Queens. Police say she told them she killed Sen because she thought he was Muslim and has hated Muslims and Hindus since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sen, 46, was from India but his religion wasn't immediately known.

I don't know what's going on inside the New York City subway system, but it's beginning to seem like open season on passengers. Police are looking for a "heavy-set Hispanic woman" who pushed a complete stranger to his death from a subway platform in Queens. This comes in the same month that a drifter with a long criminal history pushed another man, Ki-Suk Han. His last moments were captured by a photographer and shockingly splashed on the cover of the New York Post. This latest victim was apparently targeted, accorded to witnesses, by a woman who was "mumbling to herself."

Witnesses who saw the woman said she had blond or brown hair, was about 5 feet 5 inches tall, appeared to be in her 20s, and was muttering to herself in the station. She apparently sat alone on a bench until the train came in. Then she darted up behind the man, who witnesses said didn't even notice her, and pushed him in front of the train, which didn't have time to stop. It apparently happened so fast, no one had a chance to help him. Police are now on the lookout for her.

The fact that the suspect was "mumbling to herself" and that she didn't appear to know the stranger she killed points to the strong possibility that she was mentally ill. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mentally ill people roaming the streets of the city. I've lived here a long time, so trust me, I know. I've never had an issue with any of them -- in fact, usually they are quite polite, though it can be a bit disconcerting to see someone ranting to himself. You see it so often, though, that you kind of grow immune to it.

I would urge all New Yorkers, and anyone who rides the subway the world over, not to stand close to the platform. This way, if someone tries to push you, you've at least got a fighting chance of digging your feet in and stopping the attack. Also, straphangers (as New York subway passengers are called) should always be aware of their surroundings. It's tempting to bury your nose in your cellphone while you wait, but be vigilant. 

Police say the man's injuries prevented him from immediately being identified. It's heartbreaking to think that right now some family is probably being informed that a loved one was killed in such a senseless act. Sadly, since Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of a train by a schizophrenic man in 1999, Kendra's Law hasn't stopped these things from happening.

I hope the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the NYC subway system, will seriously consider installing safeguards along the tracks.

Does this make you worried about riding the subway? What can we do about mentally ill people roaming the streets?

 

Image via Vincentdesjardains/Flickr