NEW YORK – A judge ordered a woman suspected in the death of a man who was pushed off a New York City subway platform to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Judge Gia Morris ordered 31-year-old Erika Menendez to be held without bail and be given a mental health exam. Menendez was arraigned Saturday night on a charge of murder as a hate crime after she told police she hated Muslims since Sept. 11 and thought the victim was one.
“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.
Menendez is charged in the death of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, who was crushed by a train in Queens on Thursday night. Friends and co-workers said Sen was an Indian immigrant and Hindu.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Menendez is accused of “committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare.”
Menendez was reportedly incoherent at her arraignment in Queens criminal court, at one point laughing so hard that the judge told her defense lawyer, “You’re going to have to have your client stop laughing.”
Authorities said Menendez admitted to 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.
Sen was the second man to die after being pushed in front of a New York City subway train this month. Ki-Suck Han, 58, was killed in a midtown Manhattan subway station on Dec. 3. A homeless man, 30-year-old Naeem Davis, was arrested and charged with murder in that case and is awaiting trial. He claimed he acted in self-defense.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents Friday 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.