NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man was charged with murder and denied bail on Wednesday for pushing a subway rider onto the tracks ahead of an oncoming train in a tragedy that has traumatized witnesses and raised questions about why nobody rushed to the victim’s aid.
Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with one count of second degree murder and one count of second degree murder with depraved indifference, New York City police said.
He was ordered held without bail pending a second court appearance on December 11th, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Lynn Kottler said at a hearing late on Wednesday.
Monday’s incident - captured in dramatic photographs with the train bearing down on the hapless victim -- has struck a nerve among riders of the subway used by over 5 million riders a day who are often jostled by strangers on crowded platforms.
Davis was accused of pushing Ki-Suck Han, 58, onto the tracks as a southbound train pulled into the 49th Street station. He was due to appear in New York State Supreme Court later on Wednesday or Thursday.
Davis was first brought in for questioning on Tuesday, during which he “implicated himself in the incident,” according to Police Department spokesman Paul Browne.
Amateur video showed Davis and Han arguing moments before Han was shoved.
“He attacked me first,” Davis told reporters as officers escorted him to jail on Wednesday. “He grabbed me.”
A reporter for PIX11 television news, which captured Davis’ comments, asked if he intended to kill Han, and Davis responded, “No.”
Manhattan prosecutor James Lin said at a court hearing that Davis “has admitted to lifting off his feet and pushing off the wall behind him to add more force” to the fatal thrust.
Han’s family recalled him as a caring father who came to the United States from South Korea 25 years ago in search of a better life.
“My dad was always someone who wanted to pursue the American dream. He really enforced my education and he was just always there for me. It’s just devastating that he’s gone and I‘m still in disbelief,” Ashley Han, a 20-year-old college student, told reporters.
Speaking softly in Korean with her head bowed, Han’s wife thanked supporters and asked the media for privacy.
“We are now grieving because we’ve lost a husband and a father,” Serim Han said.
The news photographer whose pictures of Han in the path of the train unleashed a maelstrom of criticism said he was too far from the victim to offer help.
R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer for the tabloid New York Post, said he rapidly shot dozens of frames so that his flash might alert the motorman and that he himself was too far away to help.
Seconds later the train struck and killed Han.
“My condolences to the family, and if I could have, I would have pulled Mr. Han out,” Abbasi said on NBC’s “Today” show.
The Post, no stranger to controversy over lurid headlines and stories, sparked greater outrage than usual on Tuesday when it featured one of Abbasi’s photographs on its front page.
Under the headline “DOOMED,” it showed Han trying to pull himself from the tracks and looking into the lights of the oncoming train.
In a first-person account published in the Post, Abbasi said the incident “was one of the most horrible things I have ever seen, to watch that man dying there.”
“The sad part is, there were people who were close to the victim, who watched and didn’t do anything,” he said. “You can see it in the pictures.”
The motorman, Terrence Legree, was treated for shock after the incident, the New York Daily News reported.
Legree, who could see Han from his seat at the head of the train, told the Daily News he noticed people on the platform waving their arms to warn him and said he slammed on the emergency brake when he saw Han on the roadbed.
Legree said he was feeling “all kinds of emotions from ‘Why is this happening’ to ‘Why was that guy down there’ to ‘What happened?'”
Additional reporting by Angela Moore; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Philip Barbara