New York woman shoved a man in front of subway because she hated Muslims since 9/11

New York City police officers escort 31-year-old Erika Menendez to an awaiting car as she screams, at New York City Police department 112th Precinct in the Queens Borough of New York, December 29, 2012. (Reuters/Joshua Lott)
In a hate crime against Hindus and Muslims, a New York City woman pushed an Indian man in front of an oncoming subway train, causing him to be crushed to death in the second such murder to occur this month.

Erika Menendez, 31, is now being charged for the death of Sunando Sen, 46, who was killed by a 7 train in Queens last Thursday. The woman told police she shoved the man onto the tracks because she believed he was a Muslim or a Hindu. She then fled from the scene.

“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,” Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, quoted the woman as saying.

In an interview with the New York Times, Brown said the victim was “allegedly shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself.” Sen, who was born in India and was raised a Hindu, never saw the face of his attacker. According to the district attorney’s office, Menendez and Sen had never met, and it was unclear to tell what the victim’s religious background was.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s nightmare: Being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train,” Brown said.

Menendez fled from the scene on Thursday, but was arrested after a witness tipped off the authorities on Saturday. The passerby recognized her from the sketch and surveillance tape released by police after the incident.

“It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial,” he added. If convicted, Menendez faces 25 years to life in prison.Menendez also has a history of violence and multiple arrests. The 31-year-old was arrested once for cocaine possession and twice for attacking two other strangers. Over the past 12 years, she has had 14 encounters with police. Five of those times, her mother called the police, while two other incidents resulted in assault charges, the Wall Street Journal reported. In 2003, she attacked a retired firefighters as he took out his garbage in Queens.

“I was covered in blood,” Daniel Conlisk, 65, recalled to the Times. “She was screaming the whole time.”

Two months prior, Menendez was accused of hitting and scratching a man in Queens. The woman has repeatedly been institutionalized for mental health problems and was discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center earlier this year. The woman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and never received any jail time.

“People get well and then they get sick again,” said Ana Marengo, a spokeswoman for New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corportation.

“No one monitors if they are taking their medication or follows up to see if they are in danger to themselves or others,” said D. J. Jaffee, executive director of the Mental Health Policy Organization. Relatives of Menendez claim the defendant frequently failed to take her prescribed medication.

The judge in the case of Sen’s death ordered that Menendez be held without bail and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Conlisk believes that if Menendez had a weapon when she attacked him, he would have been killed. The most recent subway murder brings further attention to the mental health system of the United States, which has already been scrutinized this month after 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 26 people in an Elementary School earlier this month.

The death of Sen also marks the second time that a man was pushed to his death from a subway platform this month. On Dec. 3, a homeless man pushed a man into the tracks at the Times Square subway station. The New York Post published a photo of the man, clinging to the edge of the platform before being crushed to death by the oncoming train, sparking an uproar about the photographer’s decision to flash the camera rather than help the man back onto the platform.

In a speech on Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed historic lows in the city’s yearly homicide and shooting totals, but also encouraged residents not to forget Sen’s death.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” he told reporters.

The incident also sheds further light on lingering racism faced by Hindus and Muslims in the US. According to Sen’s roommates, the victim was kind and respectful of other people’s religions. He opposed war and violence, especially those prompted by religious intolerance.

“He was so gentle,” one of Sen’s roommates told the Times. “He said in this world a lot of people are dying, killing over religious things.”