NEW YORK (AP) — A woman was pushed to her death in front of a subway train at Times Square station on Saturday, police said, just over a week after the mayor and governor announced plans to beef up metro police and homeless awareness. people on the streets and trains of New York.
The man believed to be responsible fled the scene but turned himself in to transit police shortly after, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a news conference with Mayor Eric Adams at the station.
The 40-year-old victim, identified as Michelle Alyssa Go from New York, was waiting for a southbound R train at around 9.40am when she was apparently jostled, police say.
“This incident was unprovoked and the victim does not appear to have had any interaction with the subject,” Sewell said.
A second woman told police the man had approached her minutes earlier and she feared he would push her onto the tracks.
“He approaches her and he enters her space. She’s getting very, very alarmed,” Deputy Chief Jason Wilcox said, describing the previous encounter. “She tries to get away from him and he gets closer to her, and she feels he was about to physically push her onto the train. As she walks away, she witnesses the crime where he pushes our other victim in front of the train.
Police identified the suspect on Saturday evening as 61-year-old Simon Martial. Martial, who police say is homeless, has been charged with second-degree murder. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment.
Wilcox said Martial had a criminal history and was on parole.
“He had in the last three emotionally disturbed encounters with us that we have documented,” he said.
Subway conditions and safety have become a concern for many New Yorkers during the pandemic. While police statistics show major crime on the subway has dropped over the past two years, so has ridership, making comparison difficult.
And some recent attacks have drawn public attention and sounded the alarm. In September, three transit workers were assaulted in separate incidents on the same day. Several passengers were slashed and assaulted by a group of assailants on a train in lower Manhattan in May, and four separate stabbings – including two fatalities – occurred within hours on a single subway line in February.
In recent months, several people have been stabbed, assaulted or pushed onto the tracks at stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Times Square.
Saturday’s attack on Go, who was of Asian descent, also raised concerns amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York and across the country. Police officials said the murder, including whether it was a hate crime, was being investigated, but noted that the first woman Martial allegedly approached was not Asian. Martial is black.
“This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is especially horrifying to our community,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She said the community was still mourning the Dec. 31 death of Yao Pan Ma, a Chinese immigrant who was attacked in April while picking up cans in East Harlem.
“These attacks have left Asian Americans across town and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop,” Fung said in a statement.
Adams, who has been mayor for two weeks, noted that a perception of danger could cause more people to avoid the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to get people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.
“We want to continue to emphasize how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, especially in our subway system,” the mayor said Saturday. “Losing a New Yorker in this way will only heighten the fears of people who don’t use our subway system.”
“Our recovery depends on public safety in this city and in the subway system,” Adams said.
Under his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, the city has repeatedly said it is deploying more police to subways after last year’s attacks and pressure from transit officials. The agency that runs the subway system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has accelerated work to install security cameras at the city’s 472 subway stations, completing the project in September.
However, the city has also been the subject of repeated complaints in recent years about brutal police in the subways. Protests erupted, for example, after police were seen on video passing handcuffs a woman they said was selling unlicensed churros at subway stations in 2019 and punching a black teenager during a fight on a metro platform the same year.
Six police officers were assigned to the police station on Saturday, authorities said.
Joining Adams last week to discuss the state of the subways, Governor Kathy Hochul said she plans to assemble five teams of social workers and medical professionals to help the city guide people living on the streets and subways to shelters, housing and services.
Hochul and Adams are both Democrats.
Thompson reported from Buffalo, NY Associated Press reporter Dave Porter contributed from Newark, NJ
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.