A man who police say admitted to pushing a woman to her death from a New York City subway platform was arraigned on Wednesday on a charge of second-degree murder.
Simon Martial, 61, is charged in the death of 40-year-old Michelle Go in what police have described as a random attack on the Times Square-42nd Street station on 15 January.
He will remain in custody and undergo a mental exam. His next court appearance is scheduled for 23 February, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Mr Martial, who officials believe to be homeless, had three previous “emotional disturbance” encounters with police, officials announced at a press conference on Saturday.
He was reportedly captured on surveillance footage harassing another person before he pushed Ms Go. According to prosecutors, he used both hands to push Ms Go in front of a southbound R train then admitted his guilt three times to transit police, detectives and prosecutors. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
After pushing Ms Go, Mr Martial then entered a train car, stepped off at the Canal Street stop and confessed to the crime at a nearby police station, according to police. He was at the Times Square station for roughly nine minutes.
Prosecutors also are determining whether Mr Martial’s alleged actions against Ms Go – who is Asian American – were motivated by racial bias.
The attack marks the second violent death within the city’s beleaguered subway system this year.
On New Year’s Day, a man was hit by a train after jumping down to the tracks to help another man who fell after he was attacked by two teenagers. They have been charged with murder.
The incident has also heightened scrutiny into reports of violent crime throughout the subway system – which serves millions of daily passengers – and magnified the issue of mental illness and homelessness among hundreds of New Yorkers who rely on that system for shelter.
It also has inflamed growing concerns over hate crimes and violence involving Asian Americans.
Hundreds of people gathered in Times Square on 18 January for a vigil in memory of Ms Go and to condemn violence against Asian Americans.
“We’re going to make sure New Yorkers feel safe in our subway system. And they don’t feel that way now,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “I don’t feel that way when I take the train every day, or when I’m moving throughout our transportation system.”
Ridership on the city’s subways in 2021 fell more than 50 per cent from their pre-pandemic rates. A series of high-profile crimes have drawn attention to subway violence as rates of major crimes within the subway system were at their lowest in roughly two decades, though numbers are difficult to compare as ridership dwindled.
Daily rides over the last two weeks topped roughly 2 million, roughly 44 per cent of pre-pandemic daily rides from the same time, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
There were three murders reported in the city’s subways in 2019 and six in 2020. Six murders were reported last year through November.
Last February, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio added 500 police officers to patrol subways. A few months later, Mr de Blasio moved 250 additional officers into the subways, which established the most law enforcement personnel in the transit bureau’s history.
More than 2,000 officers are assigned to patrol the city’s subways, and Mayor Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced earlier this month that more officers will be performing sweeps across stations.
More than 45,000 people – including 14,600 children – were in city shelters earlier this month, though city data does not include thousands of people who sleep on the streets and in the subways each night.
During his campaign, Mayor Adams – who was inaugurated on 1 January – called for more psychiatric beds and expanded services for people with mental illness, including those who cannot be admitted to a hospital but are unable to return to shelters or the streets.
He told reporters on Saturday that he wants to “highlight … how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system.”
“We’re going to continue to do everything that’s possible to make our subway system safe, but again, we’re calling on all of our partners … to ensure those who need mental health assistance receive it,” he said.