A man who admitted to pushing an Asian-American woman from a New York City subway platform into the path of an oncoming train has been identified as Simon Martial, who police say has a history of mental illness.
Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, was standing near the platform for the NQR line at the Times Square-42nd Street stop on Saturday morning when Mr Martial approached and pushed her in front of a southbound R train. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Martial, 61, is believed to be homeless, and has had three previous “emotional disturbance” encounters with police, officials announced at a press conference on Saturday.
He was captured on surveillance footage harassing another person before he pushed Ms Go.
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. He was at the Times Square platform for roughly nine minutes, according to police.
Mr Martial remains in custody. He has not yet been arraigned.
The attack, which police believe to be random, 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 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.
The number of reported crimes targeting Asian residents rose from 28 last year in 2020 to 129 in 2021, the New York City Police Department reported last month.
“This has been a really tough year for the Asian-American community,” US Representative Grace Meng said during Saturday’s press conference.
She added: “We need to implement better policies to protect New Yorkers riding mass transit and to get people the proper help that they need – mental and social services.”
NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell said that the “incident was unprovoked, and the victim does not appear to have had any interaction with the subject.”
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.
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.
“To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system,” Mayor Adams said on Saturday. “Our recovery is dependent on the public safety in this city and in the subway system.”
Mayor Adams, who was inaugurated on 1 January, said 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
More than 45,000 people – including 14,600 children – were in city shelters as of last week, though city data does not include thousands of people who sleep on the streets and in the subways each night.
During his campaign, Mr Adams 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.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in