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Queens Chronicle

Woman charged with hate crime for subway death

Rego Park woman faces life for the murder of Sunando Sen

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Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 2:18 pm, Mon Jan 14, 2013.

Police arrested the woman who allegedly pushed a Hindu man to his death off the No. 7 train platform in Sunnyside last Thursday.

On Saturday, a Brooklyn man called 911 when he recognized Erika Menendez, 31, as the woman in the released video footage of a suspect fleeing the incident, police said. Officers arrived and took her to the 112 Precinct where she confessed to the murder.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown summed up Menendez’s confession as “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 of Rego Park was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.

The victim, Sunando Sen, 46, who lived in Corona and owned a print shop in Manhattan, was born in India and was raised Hindu, according to The New York Times.

Witnesses said Menendez had been pacing and mumbling to herself before she shoved Sen into the path of an oncoming train at the 40th/Lowery Street station at about 8 p.m last Thursday, New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.

Menendez sat briefly on a bench, Browne said, and then when the train pulled into the station, she quickly rose and pushed Sen into the path of the train. Witnesses said he had his back to Menendez and did not have time to react to the speedy action.

Sen was struck by the front of the train. His body then became pinned under the front of the second car as the train came to a stop and remained there until early Friday morning, Browne said.

Menendez fled the platform down the stairs to Queens Boulevard.

“The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare,” the district attorney said.

Detectives scoured the neighborhood for video footage. Although there are more than 4,000 cameras in the subway network, the Sunnyside station is not equipped with its own cameras.

“Cameras don’t prevent the push, but it does strike me odd, in this post-9/11 world ,there was no camera,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “It would be easier to catch the person.”

Since the deadly push, which is the second this month, politicians have urged the Metropolitan Transit Authority to look at more cameras, customer service intercoms that would connect riders to rail control centers during an emergency and barriers to the track.

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said he would like the Metropolitan Transit Authority to look at subway systems in Hong Kong and Taipei for ways to prevent these incidents.

“Subway stations are equipped with a safety barrier to protect passengers from falling or being pushed onto the tracks,” Koo said. “The barrier doors open only when a train has arrived at the station and commuters are ready to enter and exit the train.”

He added that the barriers would prevent people from littering on the track as well as cut down noise. MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the barriers would be cost prohibitive.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Van Bramer stood behind the suggestion saying in a joint statement that the sliding doors should be installed in “as many stations as it is financially feasible to do so.”

“New Yorkers rely on their subway system every day and must be safe going to and from work,” Van Bramer said. “These proposals, many enacted in other large cities, merit serious consideration by the MTA and I hope ultimately will be implemented.”

This is the second subway death in city this month. On Dec. 3, Ki Suk Han, 58, of East Elmhurst, was pushed into the path of a train at the 49th Street-7 Avenue stop on the Q line. Police charged Naeem Davis with the crime.

There was also a rash of hate crimes in Queens against Muslims during the last week of November.

If convicted Menendez faces a maximum of 25-years to life in prison. Menendez has battled with mental health issues, according to various sources. Officers arrested her for violent crimes and drug possession, police said. In 2003 Menendez punched former firefighter Daniel Conlisk in the face outside of his Ridgewood home.

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