A 30-year-old woman was in critical condition Wednesday after a man described by law enforcement as emotional in an apparently random attack at a Manhattan station pushed her onto a moving subway train.
The woman, who was not identified by police, was on the platform at the 53rd Street/Fifth Avenue station just after noon when the man pushed her against a departing E train, police said. Witnesses said the attacker was talking to her before pushing her.
Michael Kemper, the police department’s transportation chief, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the woman fell into the subway after she was struck head-on by the train. “Good Samaritans” helped her get back on stage, Chief Kemper said.
He was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital with a head injury and remains in critical condition, police officials said. Police were searching for the suspect, identified as Sabir Jones, 39. Chief Kemper said Mr Jones was “familiar with the department”.
“He’s known to us in the subway system,” the chief said, referring to video from security cameras at the station showing investigators Mr. helped identify Jones as the suspect.
The Bowery Residents Group, an organization that provides homeless-outreach services in the subway, has met with him several times as part of those efforts, according to a person who was given access to some of his social service records.
The chance of becoming a victim of a crime on the subway is low, but high-profile attacks have fueled fears about the safety of the system, which is struggling to win back riders. A permanent urban nightmare, especially when suddenly pushed onto a subway platform.
As of Oct. 15, 15 people had been pushed from subway platforms in New York City this year, compared with 22 during the same period last year, police said. Officials could not say how many episodes resulted in serious injuries, but many of those thrown were able to fight to safety.
In May, a woman was fatally injured after a man raised his head on a moving subway train at the Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station. A woman named Emin Yilmaz Ozoy (35) was partially paralyzed in the attack.
In January 2022, 40-year-old Michael Koh was pushed onto the tracks at Times Square Station and hit by an oncoming R train, the last fatal subway push. Marshall Simon, 61, a schizophrenic homeless man with a history of erratic behavior, Ms. Cove was charged with second-degree murder in the death, but was deemed incompetent to stand trial.
Ms. Go’s fatal chase prompted renewed calls for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, to investigate installing platform barriers, which are used in subway systems around the world to block access to tracks. In February 2022, the commission announced plans to test such barriers at three stations.
Hours after Wednesday’s attack, police officers stationed at the entrance to the 53rd Station were still turning away dozens of people.
Natalie Tanner, 23, who was visiting from Ottawa, said she was concerned knowing someone had been pushed, but continues to use the subway because it’s a cheaper and faster way to get into the city.
“It’s like something out of a TV show,” Ms. Tanner said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Chelsea Rose Marcius Contributed report.