New York – The woman charged in the death of a man who was pushed off a New York City subway platform has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Erika Menendez was arraigned Saturday night on a charge of murder as a hate crime. Judge Gia Morris has ordered that the 31-year-old be held without bail and be given a mental health exam.
Menendez is charged in the death of immigrant Sunando Sen, who was crushed by a train in Queens on Thursday night.
Authorities say Menendez admitted shoving Sen, who was pushed from behind. 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.
"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 told police, according to the district attorney's office.
Sen was from India, but police said it was unclear if he was Muslim, Hindu or of some other faith. The 46-year-old lived in Queens and ran a printing shop. He was shoved from an elevated platform on the 7 train line, which connects Manhattan and Queens. Witnesses said a muttering woman rose from her seat on a platform bench and pushed him on the tracks as a train entered the station and then ran off.
For someone to do something like that ... that's not the way we are made...She needs help.
The two had never met before, authorities said, and witnesses told police they hadn't interacted on the platform.
The district attorney said such hateful remarks about Muslims and Hindus could not be tolerated.
"The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter's worst nightmare," he said.
On Dec. 3, another man was pushed to his death in a Times Square subway station. A photo of the man 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. He claimed he acted in self-defense and is awaiting trial.
It's unclear whether anyone tried - or could have tried - to help Sen on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep 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," Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.
But commuters still expressed concern over subway safety and shock about the arrest of 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."
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.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.