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Woman charged with hate crime murder over Indian's killing

December 30, 2012 12:47 IST

A 31-year old woman, arrested for shoving an Indian immigrant to his death onto a subway train track in New York, has been charged with murder as a hate crime after she admitted before police that she pushed him because she "hated Hindus and Muslims".

Erika Menendez of Queens is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime for the death of 46-year-old Sunando Sen.

She is to be arraigned in Queens criminal court and faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison if convicted, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Sen, an immigrant from India, had lived in Queens for years and recently opened his own printing and copying business near Columbia University.

He was unmarried and his parents were dead, according to roommates who lived with him in a small apartment.

Police have notified Sen's family in India about his death.

Menendez pushed an unsuspecting Sen on to the subway tracks in front of an oncoming train at a Queens station as he was waiting on the platform on the night of December 27.

Brown said Sen was struck by the train and died of "multiple blunt force trauma."

He was hit by the first car of the train and his body was pinned under the second car before the 11-car train came to a stop.

In a statement released by the district attorney's office, Brown quoted Menendez as having told the police "in sum and substance" that "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 was referring to the September 11, 2001 attack on Manhattan's World Trade Center towers.

After being on the run for almost two days, Menendez was apprehended by police early on Saturday morning after it received a tip from a citizen who spotted her on a Brooklyn street and identified her from the sketch and surveillance video the police had released.

Police had also offered a USD 12,000 reward for information leading to the woman's arrest and conviction.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said the citizen called 911 and police took the woman in custody after confirming her identity.

Menendez made statements implicating herself in the crime, admitting she pushed Sen before an oncoming train because she thought he was a Muslim.

Brown said "the hateful remarks" made by Menendez and "which precipitated the defendant's actions can never be tolerated by a civilized society."

He said Sen was shoved from behind and had no chance to defend himself. "The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter's worst nightmare – being suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train."

According to the charges, Menendez was observed talking to herself while seated on a bench at the subway station and was also observed pacing on the platform and muttering to herself.

Sen was standing on the subway platform as the train approached at which time Menendez allegedly pushed him from behind into the path of the oncoming train.

Witnesses said the attack happened so quickly that Sen could not react and nor could the bystanders do anything to help him.

The woman fled the station, running down two flights of stairs and down the street.

Brown said he had no information about the woman's criminal or mental history.

"It will be up to the court to determine if she is fit to stand trial," he said.

Yoshita Singh in New York
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