By Laura Studley, CNN
Police in New York City arrested a man who allegedly pushed a woman in front of an oncoming subway train Saturday morning, NYPD said in a news release.
The man, identified as 61-year-old Simon Martial, was charged with second-degree murder, NYPD said. He turned himself in to police less than an hour after the incident and was taken into custody. CNN has not been yet been able to identify an attorney for Martial.
NYPD Sgt. Anwar Ishmael called the incident a “random” attack.
Police said 40-year-old Michelle Alyssa Go died after she was pushed onto the tracks of the oncoming train at the Times Square-42nd Street subway station. The suspect then fled the scene, authorities said.
The incident, which took place around 9:40 a.m., was “unprovoked and the victim does not appear to have any interaction with the subject,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a Saturday news conference. An investigation is ongoing, Sewell said.
Minutes before the woman was pushed onto the oncoming train, NYPD Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox said, the suspect approached a different woman on the train platform, who he noted was not Asian. Wilcox said that woman felt like she was going to be pushed by the suspect and told police as she was walking away, she witnessed him push the victim onto the tracks.
On Sunday, Mayor Eric Adams told media the subway system is safe.
“What our battle is in the subway system is fighting the perception of fear that cases like this can happen,” Adams told CNN Affiliate NY1.
“When you see homeless individuals with mental health issues not being attended to and given the proper services, that adds to the perception of fear,” Adams said, speaking to a scrum of media after an unrelated press event. He reiterated the proper transit security plan was implemented at the station where the incident occurred.
“I keep continuing to say: this is a horrific incident, we lost a New Yorker, but we don’t see how many lives we saved because of a proper plan like that,” Adams continued.
Go was employed by Deloitte Services LP, a multimillion-dollar financial services firm.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague in this senseless act of violence,” said Managing Director Jonathan Gandal. “We are doing all we can to support her family and friends during this terribly painful time.”
Go was a volunteer with the New York Junior League (NYJL). Its president, Dayna Barlow Cassidy, said Go was working with several NYJL community partners that serve at-risk communities.
“The NYJL is greatly saddened to learn of the death of Michelle Go under such senseless and tragic circumstances,” Cassidy said. “Ms. Go was a valued member of the NYJL for over 10 years. With a focus on strengthening family units, she served many women and children within our New York community, helping them enrich their lives through education on nutrition. Michelle will be missed by many friends. We call upon the city’s leadership to urgently address the lack of mental health and other supports for underserved communities.”
During a Saturday briefing, Chief of Transit Kathleen M. O’Reilly said there was a “robust” plan in place with six officers assigned within that station and on the trains as part of their transit overlay. “Unfortunately, these instances do occur but they are rare but this one is very harrowing and disturbing and it was unpreventable by our officers,” O’Reilly said.
“We often look at a case like this and we don’t really acknowledge how many lives we save because we executed that plan,” Adams said Saturday, referring to his transit safety initiatives.
He said the city will continue to modify and enhance the system “until we can ensure every passenger on this system is safe.”
Martial has a criminal background and three “emotionally disturbed encounters,” NYPD Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox said. Minutes before the suspect allegedly pushed Go onto the tracks, he had approached another woman who later told police she felt like she was going to be pushed and walked away, Wilcox said.
“Today, a woman entered the subway station, like any New Yorker, just trying to get where she needed to go,” Adams said on Twitter. “New Yorkers deserve to feel safe while riding mass transit. It’s why I stood with (New York Gov. Kathy Hochul) to announce the Safe Options Support teams.”
On Sunday, Adams said the suspect was only in the subway system for nine minutes.
Adams said officials sometimes need up to two hours to remove an individual from the subway station. “We don’t want that,” the mayor said. “We want a faster turnaround.”
At a news conference earlier this month, Adams and Hochul announced an initiative to address both public safety in the subway system by sending more officers to inspect subways and stations as well as the homelessness crisis, by deploying trained mental health personnel across the city to support individuals who are homeless.
Adams reiterated in Saturday’s news conference he was working closely with Sewell, the police commissioner, on a plan which covers both minimizing crime and focusing on mental health.
“To lose a New Yorker in this fashion would only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system,” the mayor said. “Our recovery is dependent on the public safety in this city and in this subway system. We can do that with the right balance, a balance of safety and a balance of proactively giving people the assistance they need when they’re in mental health crisis.”
Janno Lieber, the acting chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in a statement subway crime in general is “way down.”
“This is a sad day, a New Yorker was going about her business right in the heart of our city, in the heart of our subway system in Times Square and she lost her life,” Lieber said. “This is unconscionable, this is unacceptable, it has to stop.”
While police are calling her killing a random attack — and have not labeled it a hate crime — Go’s killing has reignited concerns in the Asian American community.
US Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York, noted the incident comes as attacks on Asian New Yorkers “continue to be on the rise.” Meng, whose congressional district includes Queens, has called for better policies around safety on mass transit and mental health and social services.
Attacks on Asian Americans across the country have seen a violent rise in attacks in recent years that has only worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Also in New York, a 62-year-old Asian man who police said was bashed in the head in an unprovoked attack in East Harlem in April died from his injuries last month.
In a statement on Saturday, Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, said Go’s death is a “reminder that the fear of anti-Asian violence in our community is well-founded.
“It is imperative that New York City implements proactive, community-based solutions that prevent these crimes from ever happening in the first place,” she added.
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