US subway death: Sunando Sen was victim of hate crime

New York: Sunando Sen, 46, an enterprising Indian who had his own printing business, was murdered by being pushed onto the path of an oncoming subway train by a deranged Hispanic woman who told police on Saturday that she hates Hindus and Muslims.

Prosecutors on Saturday charged Erika Menendez, 31, with a hate crime murder after she shoved Sen, who was waiting on an elevated platform for a subway train, on the tracks as a 7 train entered a Queens station on Thursday night.

Menendez ran off after pushing Sen from behind, but was arrested after a tip by a passer-by who saw her on a street and thought she looked like the woman in the subway surveillance video released by the police. Menendez made a statement at the police station revealing her terribly twisted mind.

“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.

Handout photo of Sunando Sen

The district attorney said such hatefulness could not be tolerated. “The defendant is accused of committing what is every subway commuter’s worst nightmare,” said Queens district attorney Richard A Brown.

“Sunando Sen was a real person. I knew him the way a lot of New Yorkers know each other. We pass through each others’ lives. What do I remember of him? He was patient, mainly,” wrote Roger Friedman who knew Sen from the NY Copy Center where he worked.

Sen had helped him painstakingly convert old 3D Stereograph slides of his family into prints when no other lab was willing to do it.

“She’s crazy, of course, but well enough to be convicted I hope of this hideous crime. This is heartbreaking, that her racism and “insanity” could have resulted in such a tragedy. Sunando truly is the most innocent victim of a hate crime,” Friedman wrote in blogpost on

Sen, the co-owner of a printing shop, did not deserve his tragic death, said his grieving roommate. “He was nice and quiet and a very good person,” his roommate Ar Suman, told the New York Daily News. “Seven days a week he worked. He wanted to be his own boss.”

Such horrific subway deaths are rare, but other high-profile cases include the 1999 fatal shoving of Kendra Webdale, an aspiring screenwriter, by a former psychiatric patient. The Webdale case led to a law stipulating for more supervision of mentally ill people living outside institutions.

"It is frightening how there are so many crazy people out here. They belong in a mental institution as they want to hurt people,” said Adhiraj Singh, a student, who uses subways to commute to college.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, South Asians faced pointed discrimination and turban-wearing Sikhs most notably were caught up in the spiral of hate crimes.

“We now live in an era in which individuals who are or who are just perceived to be Arab or Muslim, including South Asians; are viewed with suspicion because of their religious background and or the color of their skin,” said June Han, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University.

After the 9/11 terror attacks, Han authored an interview-based report that took a hard look at the subtle and not so subtle discrimination inflicted on South Asians in the post-9/11 world. It focused on Indian Hindus, Pakistani Muslims and Sikhs living mainly in the Washington, DC area.

Indian immigrant Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first person to be killed as a result of a 9/11-linked hate crime. The father of three was gunned down at an Arizona petrol pump four days after September 11 by now convicted revenge killer Frank Silva Roque because he was brown-skinned.

Updated Date: Dec 30, 2012 11:24 AM

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