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Psychiatric test ordered for suspect in NYC subway death
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman suspected in the death of an immigrant who was pushed off a New Yorksubway platform has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Erika Menendez, 31, was arraigned Saturday night on a charge of murder as a hate crime. She had told police she has hated Muslims since Sept. 11 and thought the victim was one. Judge Gia Morris ordered that Ms. Menendez be held without bail and be given a mental health exam.
“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,” Ms. Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.
“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Ms. Menendez was incoherent at her arraignment in Queens criminal court, at one point laughing so hard that the judge told her defense lawyer, “You’re going to have to have your client stop laughing.”
Ms. Menendez admitted shoving Mr. Sen, who was pushed from behind, authorities said. She was arrested after a tip by a passer-by who saw her on a street and thought she looked like the woman in a surveillance video released by police.
A call to Ms. Menendez’s attorney was not immediately returned Sunday.
Mr. Sen was the second man to die after being pushed in front of a New Yorksubway train this month. Ki-Suck Han was killed in a midtown Manhattan subway station on Dec. 3. A photo of Han clinging to the edge of the platform a split second before he was struck by a train was published on the front page of the New York Post, causing an uproar about whether the photographer, who was catching a train, or anyone else should have tried to help him.
A homeless man was arrested and charged with murder in that case and is awaiting trial. He claimed he acted in self-defense.
It’s unclear whether anyone tried, or could have tried, to help Mr. Sen on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents Friday to keep Mr. 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,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.
But commuters still expressed concern over subway safety and shock about the arrest of Ms. 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.”
Mr. 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.
• Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this article.
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