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Homeless man charged in New York subway death

Naeem Davis is accused of second-degree murder for allegedly pushing Ki-Suck Han in front of a train. A photographer who captured the incident in a Page 1 picture says many people photographed the body.

December 05, 2012|By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times
  • Serim Han holds a picture of her husband, Ki-Suck Han, who was killed by a train after being pushed onto the subway tracks.
Serim Han holds a picture of her husband, Ki-Suck Han, who was killed by a… (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)

NEW YORK — Police on Wednesday charged a man with killing a subway rider who was pushed onto the tracks and crushed to death by an oncoming train, a crime that has roiled the city as much for its horror as for the response of those who witnessed it.

Naeem Davis, 30, described by police as homeless, faces a charge of second-degree murder with "depraved indifference" in connection with the death Monday of Ki-Suck Han, 58. Han was on his way to the Korean Consulate to renew his passport when, witnesses say, he became involved in an argument with Davis, who was purportedly harassing people waiting on a midtown Manhattan subway platform.

Video captured by others standing on the subway platform, as well as photographs taken by police surveillance cameras in the station, were key to Davis' arrest. He was picked up by police Tuesday near the subway station after being recognized by officers and by some street vendors who know him.

But images captured by one witness, a freelance photographer who snapped a picture of Han as he tried to scramble to safety, provoked anger among some people who saw the photo on the cover of the New York Post and who have questioned why the photographer did not try to save Han. The photographer, R. Umar Abbasi, in turn accused other witnesses of doing nothing until after the train had crushed Han.

Then, he says, they swarmed the scene to take their own pictures.

"What surprised me is that there were so many cellular telephones that were taking pictures of a dead body," Abbasi told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday as he defended his actions. Abbasi said he was too far from Han and that the train was moving too quickly for him to have reached the victim in time.

He said others on the platform were far closer but didn't move. "Nobody made an effort," said Abbasi, who added that he was trying to alert the train conductor with his camera flashes when he captured the last seconds of Han's life. Under persistent questioning about whether he could have done more to help Han, Abbasi said, "If I could have, I would have."

"If I was in a reachable distance, I would have grabbed him and pulled him," Abbasi added.

The Post has also come under fire from readers and from some media critics for publishing the photo.

None of the people in the station on 7th Avenue between 49th and 50th streets has come forward to say they tried to help Han, but they have described yelling that there was a man on the track and waving their arms in hopes of getting the conductor's attention.

The conductor, identified by the New York Daily News as Terrence Legree, said he saw a commotion as he neared the station. He said he scanned the track and spotted Han but could not stop the train in time. Legree, who has worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for 21 years, also said he was surprised to see people rushing to take pictures of the dying Han.

"People were taking pictures of the poor gentleman. They didn't want to leave," he told the Daily News.

Han's family spoke out for the first time Wednesday, hours before Han was scheduled to be buried.

"We are suffering in sorrow, but we have the support of family, friends and our church to help us through this time," Han's 20-year-old daughter, Ashley Han, said as her weeping mother held up Han's picture.

Han came to the United States 25 years ago from South Korea. He was unemployed, but according to his family had been doing odd jobs to support the family.

"The thought of someone helping him out in a matter of seconds would have been great," his daughter said. "But … what happened has happened."

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