Woman sought for shoving man to his death in subway

Killing the second of its kind in a month along New York City system

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NEW YORK -- As police continued searching Friday for a woman who witnesses say sent a man to his death by pushing him into an oncoming subway train in Queens, anxious New Yorkers spoke with a mix of shock, horror and nonchalance as they grappled with the second such death in a month along the city's massive transit system.

Police identified the victim in Thursday night's incident as a 46-year-old New York City resident from India who worked at a printing business. A police surveillance video shows the woman -- identified by witnesses -- running through a nearby intersection. Police said a $12,000 reward is being offered and they released a sketch of the suspect.

The victim, Sunando Sen, 46, of Queens was remembered Friday as a "brilliant" graphic designer and Manhattan business owner who had moved to the United States in the early 1990s from India.

Mr. Sen. spent 15 years doing graphic design and computer work for NY Copy & Printing in Manhattan and had been recovering from a recent stroke, said his boss, Bidyut Sarker. Originally from Calcutta, Mr. Sen spent much of his time at the printing shop and in the neighborhood, Mr. Sarker said. "People have been coming to remember him with us. He was brilliant. He was kind. We all miss him. Everyone loved him around here."

Mr. Sarker is planning a ceremony at a Hindu temple, but details had not been finalized for Mr. Sen, who earned a degree in economics from New York University in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Sarker said Mr. Sen and a business partner had just opened a new printing and copy business, Amsterdam Copy & Graphics, on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Mr. Sen's former roommate in Queens, Rizwan Khan, recalled him as a music lover with a massive CD collection who "was so good with computers and numbers, you thought he was from a different world."

To say "this man had an impressive mind is really to understate his intelligence," Mr. Khan said. "He was gifted. He could solve any problem. He could make the computer do anything. He had worked extremely hard and made himself a success. He knew the value of education."

Thursday's death occurred just after 8 p.m., when a woman, who witnesses said appeared to be mumbling to herself, suddenly pushed the man from behind as he was waiting for the No. 7 elevated train to pull in to the station, police said.

"Witnesses said she was walking back and forth on the platform, talking to herself, before taking a seat alone on a wooden bench near the north end of the platform," Paul J. Browne, NYPD deputy commissioner, said in a statement. "When the train pulled into the station, the suspect rose from the bench and pushed the man, who was standing with his back to her, onto the tracks into the path of the train. The victim appeared not to notice her, according to witnesses."

At the above-ground station in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens where the death happened, police stood inside the entrance. Most riders kept closer to the walls than they otherwise might as trains rolled into the station early Friday afternoon.

Maria Roquete, 55, who moved to New York from Brazil 13 years ago, immediately took a seat on a wooden bench as she awaited her train. "Even if this station is empty, I have to sit down," she said. "I'm scared."

Other commuters questioned whether enough is being done to ensure safety on the subway, with one subway rider suggesting police should have more cameras or officers on the platforms.

For some riders, Thursday's death served to underscore such urban dangers, especially with a transit system that carries 5.3 million riders daily.

On Dec. 3, Ki-Suck Han was crushed by an oncoming train at a subway station in Midtown Manhattan. Han, 58, had been on his way to the South Korean Consulate to renew his passport when, witnesses said, he became involved in an argument with a man who had been harassing people waiting on the platform.

The man, later identified as 30-year-old Naeem Davis, is accused of pushing Han onto the tracks. Han's final moments were captured by a nearby photographer, whose picture ran on the front page of the New York Post and launched a media controversy over whether the photographer should have tried to help. Mr. Davis, who is homeless, has been charged with murder.

Although the two December deaths have left some subway riders frightened, such pushing incidents are considered rare in the 24-hour subway system. Earlier this year, two people were pushed onto subway tracks in separate incidents, and both survived. In a third incident, a man died after falling onto subway tracks during a fight with another subway rider. The man was hit by a train and killed.

In 1999, two high-profile pushing incidents prompted passage of a law in New York allowing courts to require that some people diagnosed with mental illnesses accept treatment and medication before being released from psychiatric facilities. Both of those incidents involved mentally ill men who had been released from hospitals without medication.

Andrew Goldstein, pushed Kendra Webdale, 32, in front of an N train in January 1999, killing her. Goldstein, who had been diagnosed with a mental illness but was not taking medication, eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. About three months later, another mentally ill man, Julio Perez, pushed Edgar Rivera, 37, in front of an oncoming train. Mr. Rivera survived, but both of his legs were severed. A jury convicted Mr. Perez of attempted murder and assault.

Questioned about Thursday's incident, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, himself a subway rider, spoke Friday about changes in mental health policy that pivoted away from locking people in mental institutions.

"It cost a lot and the trouble is you may incarcerate the handful of people who do something wrong, but you'd also incarcerate an enormous number of people who will never do anything wrong," the mayor said on a local radio program. "And the essence of America is, unless you do something wrong, we don't incarcerate you."


New York Newsday contributed.


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