- The victim, an Ecuadorian mother of two, miraculously survived the alleged brazen attack by Aditya Vemulapati, 24.
Aditya Vemulapati, 24, a homeless man of Indian origin, has been arrested and booked on suspicion of attempted murder after he pushed a woman onto the New York subway tracks just as a train was entering the station on the morning of November 19, 2020.
Vemulapati, was arraigned on charges of attempted murder in the second-degree, attempted assault in the first-degree, assault in the second-degree and first-degree reckless endangerment during the virtual Manhattan Criminal Court hearing filed by Manhattan prosecutors.
Video footage from the station showed Vemulapati pushing the unsuspecting Liliana Sagbaicela, 40, as she waited for a train at the 14th Street-Union Square Station at 8.30 am Thursday. The incident occurred just as the No. 5 train pulled into the station and seemed to be a random act of violence.
Paramedics soon rushed to the scene. They found the woman trapped under the train with a gash to the head, which required stitches. Sagbaicela miraculously escaped and sustained only minor injuries. She was able to lay flat on the track bed as the train went over her, avoiding major injuries.
Vemulapati, who made no attempt to flee was taken into custody at the scene. The police report released by NBC News stated that Sagbaicela had headphones on and was listening to Bible passages. Witnesses say she was waiting for the train when Vemulapati approached her, appearing to talk to himself. From the footage it appeared that he had timed the shove just as an incoming train was approaching the station and pushed her without saying a word, the police report added.
Witnesses told Desiblitz that they saw the man pacing and muttering to himself before running up behind the woman and pushing her onto the tracks as the train entered the station.
Sagbaicela’s husband told NBC News that he was grateful she was able to return to their Sunset Park apartment, saying she “got a new life today.”
Sagbaicela is an Ecuadorian immigrant who worked as a housekeeper.
“This case is a strong case. The defendant attempted to kill a stranger on a subway platform yesterday morning,” a prosecutor told Judge Keisha Espinal during the arraignment the New York Post reported. “The only reason she is alive is because she landed between the tracks and the train was able to pass over her.”
The prosecutor noted that there were “several eyewitnesses,” as well as “video evidence” and that Vemulapati “admitted to pushing her in front of the train.”
NYPD Transit Chief Kathleen O’Reilly told News18, “It’s very disturbing. We see him waiting, calculating for the train to approach the station and at the opportune moment he pushed the victim onto the tracks. She fell fortunately for her between the roll bed and rails, and by the grace of God sustained only minor injuries.”
Police are saying Vemulapati is emotionally disturbed.
The NBC report added that the incident marked the second subway push arrest made on Thursday. Another man was taken into custody after police said he pushed a UPS worker onto the tracks at the 42nd Street-Bryant Park Station on Wednesday night. Police said Justin Pena attacked the victim after the man refused to give him money.
According to News 18, the incident led the president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to draw attention to the mental health problems in the city that carry over to subway platforms. ”It’s gotta be addressed, and I’m desperate for this mayor or the next to take it on,” MTA President Sarah Feinberg said. ”This city has a mental health crisis, we have got folks in this city who desperately need mental health care,” Feinberg said.
Vemulapati, who has only been in New York for the past few months, has no prior arrests with the NYPD, but has a history of arrests in Illinois, Missouri and Florida, which include violations of orders of protections and failures to appear in court, according to prosecutors the New York Post reported. He still has an open burglary case in Florida, prosecutors said.
According to the New York Post, the judge said Vemulapati poses a “risk of flight” and ordered him remanded.
Vemulapati’s victim, Liliana Sagbaicela, was at home recovering Friday after the traumatic incident. “I saw in the video, the man — oh my, God, I can’t believe it,” Sagbaicela, a married mom of two daughters, told 1010 WINS Friday. “Is this happening? Now I understand why everybody and the police say to me, ‘You are alive for the miracles. You are a miracle.”