A man accused of pushing an Asian woman in front of an oncoming subway train in New York City has a criminal history dating back to 1998, police told reporters.
The fatal attack, which authorities deemed “unprovoked,” occurred at Times Square-42nd Street subway station at around 9:40 a.m. on Saturday.
Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, was waiting for a southbound R train when Simon Martial, 61, allegedly shoved her onto the tracks.
Martial, who was reported to be homeless, fled the scene but turned himself in less than an hour later, CNN reported.
Police charged Martial with second-degree murder. When reporters asked about his motive, he said the victim “stole my f*cking jacket,” according to the New York Post.
Martial also claimed to be god. “Yeah, because I’m God,” he said. “Yes, I did. I’m God, I can do it.”
However, New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the incident appears to be “unprovoked.” She told reporters that “the victim does not appear to have [had] any interaction with the subject.”
A second woman alleged that Martial approached her before he approached Go. But the woman, who is not Asian, was able to keep her distance.
“He approaches her and he gets in her space. She gets very, very alarmed,” said New York Police Department Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox, according to Fox News.
“She tries to move away from him and he gets close to her, and she feels that he was about to physically push her onto the train,” Wilcox continued. “As she’s walking away she witnesses the crime where he pushes our other victim in front of the train.”
Wilcox said Martial has a criminal history, noting “three emotionally disturbed encounters” on record. He was arrested in 1998 and again in 2017 for attempting to rob taxi drivers, according to WABC.
Martial has been arrested 10 times since 1998, New York Daily News reported. While the latest attack is not being ruled as a hate crime, it has nonetheless struck fear in the Asian American community.
“This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is particularly horrifying for our community,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, according to KARE 11. “These attacks have left Asian Americans across the city and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop.”
Phil Wong, a businessman and political activist from Queens, attributed the community’s fear in part to District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s “lenient sentencing guidelines.” The lawyer of a man accused of attacking and robbing a Korean American good Samaritan in Midtown on Wednesday cited those policies in demanding the release of his client, who is a repeat offender.
“People are afraid because we know [Bragg] is going to let violent criminals go free and Asians around the city will be the victims,” Wong told the New York Post.
Mayor Eric Adams, on the other hand, stressed the importance of addressing mental health in the city. Earlier this month, Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) announced an initiative called Safe Options Support (SOS), which will “embed” trained professionals — including medical professionals and social workers — to reach and offer resources to homeless people.
“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” Adams said. “To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”
The train operator who witnessed the recent incident reportedly suffered from“incredible trauma” and was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
“Our hearts go out to the victim, obviously, but also to the train operator who has incredible trauma from having, unfortunately, experienced that moment when somebody was pushed in front of his train,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Acting Chair Janno Lieber said, according to People.
Canella Gomez, vice president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, described the incident as “the part of the job that no one is ever truly physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for,” reported New York Daily News.
“No train operator comes to work expecting to have a passenger thrown in front of his or her train,” Gomez said.
Featured Image via CBS New York (left) and Michelle Alyssa Go (right)