The main problem is that there are no barriers. There is literally nothing standing between you and the 200-ton steel monster roaring into the station. You could either jump in front of it…or shove someone in front of it…and nothing could stop you until it was far too late. The mere fact that the opportunity is there—the ability to suddenly rise above the humdrum commuter life and play God in a split-second decision—seems to make it queasily tempting for far more people than are likely to admit it.
A 1992 study of people who shoved strangers in front of subway trains revealed that 95% of the offenders were psychotic and two-thirds were homeless. Nearly all of them had violent histories. And the main reason they shoved people in front of trains was, quite simply, because they could.
Take a deep breath, step away from the platform’s edge, and read these ten stories of people who succumbed to the sick urge to shove a stranger in front of a train.
1. Mentally ill woman blames Hindus for 9/11, pushes Hindu man in front of oncoming subway car.
In May 2015, 33-year-old Erika Menendez was handed a 24-year-prison sentence for shoving an Indian immigrant in front of NYC’s #7 train in December 2012.
Upon her arrest, Menendez told investigators:
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.
The victim, 46-year-old Sunando Sen, was unmarried and lived alone in Queens. According to witnesses, he had no interaction with Menendez before she sprang up from a subway bench and used both hands to push him in front of a train.
2. Violent schizophrenic succumbs to “overwhelming urge” to throw woman in train’s path.
In the two years leading up to that gloomy, rainy Sunday in January 1999 when he fatally pushed 32-year-old Kendra Webdale in front of an Uptown “R” train, Andrew Goldstein had violently attacked 13 people and had been hospitalized for mental issues 13 times. Ominously, one of these hospitalizations occurred after he’d attacked a woman on a subway platform.
Intensely schizophrenic and delusional, Goldstein at various times told doctors that his neck had disappeared, that the planet was running out of oxygen, that he could see people shrinking and growing before his eyes, and that he was the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. He once asked doctors to supply him with a special pair of eyeglasses so that he could see the voices that were talking to him.
In a videotaped statement to police, Goldstein said:
I shoved her, not knowing which direction I was going, coming or going. And then, she falls onto the track. And then, I went into shock and horror. I saw the body go under. And then I walked away. And I said, “I don’t know.” I threw my hands out. “I don’t know.” … You feel like something’s entering you, like you’re being inhabited. I don’t know. And then, and then it’s like an overwhelming urge to strike out or to push or punch. And then, I feel like it’s not there, that sensation. Now I’m sane again. Then I’m normal. And then, it’s there again and then, it’s not.
Goldstein eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Webdale’s family successfully pushed for legislation—known as “Kendra’s Law“—mandating court-ordered treatment of mental patients who are deemed to be a public-safety risk.
3. Angry at being evicted from his rooming house, diagnosed schizophrenic pushes woman in front of train.
Forty-one-year-old Herbert Cheong was a diagnosed schizophrenic who’d recently been evicted from his boarding house. But instead of attacking the person who’d evicted him, Cheong decided to prey on a stranger. One day in September, 1997, he reportedly spent fifteen minutes on a Toronto subway platform sizing up potential victims before he shoved 23-year-old Charlene Minkowski into the path of a moving subway car.
4. Transgender argument escalates into subway murder.
A British tabloid described the person who was born “David Burgess” as a “cross-dressing lawyer” that loved ones referred to as “Sonia.” Burgess was wearing a dress at rush hour on the platform of London’s King’s Cross Tube station one day in 2011 when Senthooran Kanagasingham—a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and self-described “gender-variant” who lived as a woman named “Nina”—became embroiled in an argument with Burgess that ended with Nina pushing Sonia in front of a train.
5. Wife watches in horror while stranger shoves husband in front of train.
On a Sunday morning in November 2014, without a word being exchanged between him and his attacker, 61-year-old Wai Kuen Kwok was fatally pushed in front of the “D” train in the Bronx as his wife watched helplessly. Surveillance footage showed murder suspect Kevin Darden subsequently standing outside a bodega and calmly smoking a cigarette as if nothing had happened.
6. Violent drug addict hears voices telling him to do “bad things,” then shoves man in front of London Tube train.
Stephen Soans-Wade was a diagnosed psychotic with a history of violence and a proclivity for heroin and crack cocaine. In the six weeks leading up to the day in 2004 when he shoved a man into an oncoming train in east London, he’d attempted to have himself hospitalized three times. He told healthcare workers that sometimes he felt simultaneously like Jesus and the Devil and that he feared what would happen if he wasn’t restrained:
I feel like I’m going to do something. I’m going to push somebody under a bus or a train unless I get help. I’m not safe.
Despite his desperate warnings, Soans-Wade somehow slipped through the system’s cracks and shoved someone onto the tracks.
7. Friends argue over girl, fight turns deadly on subway platform.
A drunken argument over a 16-year-old girl between former co-workers at a Queens bakery turned deadly early one morning in November 2005 as 19-year-old Richie Molina shoved his 22-year-old friend Edison Guzman in front of a #7 train. A subway motorman saw Guzman in his path but was powerless to stop the train in time. Molina received an 18-year sentence for manslaughter.
8. Escaped mental patient shoves Korean immigrant in front of train, found not liable due to mental illness.
On Christmas Eve 1995, Reuben Harris—described as a “paranoid schizophrenic with a long history of drug and alcohol problems”—escaped from a state psychiatric center. Harris had been placed in state mental hospitals a dozen times in the preceding 18 years. One of the admissions occurred after he was found guilty of “slashing a subway panhandler with a razor.” On January 4, 1995, Harris shoved a 63-year-old woman named Soon Sin into the path of an “F” train at Manhattan’s 34th Street station. Due to his mental illness, Harris was found not criminally responsible for homicide.
9. Mentally ill teen shoves woman in front of train during a struggle to steal her earrings.
Fifteen-year-old Jaheem Grayton of Brooklyn had recently been released from the Kings County Hospital Center after being treated for psychiatric problems. According to his mother, Grayton had also stopped taking his medication. During a struggle to steal 20-year-old aspiring model Naeeham Lee’s golden earrings one winter day in 1996, Grayton fatally shoved Lee in front of an oncoming subway car.
10. Angry over losing his Timberland boots, man pushes stranger in front of train.
In December 2012, Naeem Davis became embroiled in an argument with 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han at Manhattan’s W. 49th St. subway station. Davis shoved Han onto the subway tracks, and for about 20 seconds, passersby reportedly did nothing as Han begged for assistance getting up from the tracks. A chilling photo of Han looking at the subway car that would kill him was printed on the cover of the always tasteful New York Post. Davis later told authorities that when he shoved Han, he was furious that a friend had trashed his cherished Timberland boots two days previously.