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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Naemm Davis Subway Station Murder Case

     At 12:30 PM on Monday, December 3, 2012, 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han stood with other New Yorkers waiting for their trains at the Times Square subway station at 49th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. Mr. Han, who was currently unemployed, had once owned a midtown dry cleaning business. He had come into Manhattan from his home in Queens to renew his Korean passport. That day, Naemm Davis, a 30-year-old homeless man wandered about the platform above the tracks mumbling to himself,and alarming some of the subway travelers. Mr. Han (who reportedly had been drinking), asked Davis to stop bothering the other people. The two men exchanged angry words, and following a brief scuffle, Davis threw Mr. Han off the subway platform onto the tracks below.

     Dozens of subway patron looked on as Mr. Han struggled to pull himself off the tracks and back up to the armpit-high platform. He couldn't make it, and after being on the tracks for about a minute, was hit by a southbound train that did not have time to stop. A medical student from the Beth Israel Medical Center went to Mr. Han who was face down on the tracks, and still alive. The student rolled him over and tried to save him by beating on his chest. Some of the people standing on the subway platform used  their cellphones to video Mr. Han as he lay on the tracks below. A short time later, Ki-Suck Han died at Saint Luke's Hospital.

     The next day, police officers arrested Naemm Davis in midtown Manhattan. While being questioned by detectives, Davis said, "He [Han] wouldn't leave me alone, so I pushed him. I saw him get hit by the train. I said to him, '[expletive], get out of my face.'"

     On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, the day of Davis' arrest, the New York Post, on its front page, published a large photograph of Mr. Han standing between the tracks and the platform wall with the back of his head to the camera as he looked toward the oncoming train. The oddly tranquil photograph, taken just moments before impact, featured the headline "DOOMED" and the caption: "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die." The photograph had been taken by R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photo-journalist who just happened to be on the train platform that day. Mr. Umar sold the image to the New York Post for an undisclosed amount.

     The subway station murder, a homicide that in its own right would have created widespread fear and anger, sparked public outrage over the fact no one on the train station platform had reached down and pulled Mr. Han to safety. People also wondered why Mr. Abbasi, instead of getting a dramatic and newsworthy photograph, hadn't dropped his camera to save this man. And editors at the New York Post were under fire for simply publishing Abbasi's picture.

     R. Umar Abbasi, against a tidal wave of criticism, tried to defend his behavior on the New York Post website. The photographer wrote that he had flashed his camera 49 times with the intent of catching the attention of the subway motorman. "I wanted to help the man," he wrote, "but I couldn't figure out how to help. It all happened so fast. I had no idea what I was shooting. I'm not even sure it was registering with me what was happening. I was just looking at that train coming." Abbasi said he didn't understand why others who were closer to the tracks didn't try to save Mr. Han.

     Some media critics took issue with the New York Post for what they considered the unethical journalistic act of buying and publishing Mr. Abbasi's photograph of the doomed Mr. Han. A pundit named Lauren Ashburn called the act "profit-motive journalism at its worst."

     Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," a weekly TV talk show about the media, in recognizing that Mr. Han's murder comprised every subway traveler's nightmare, was less critical of The New York Post. Mr. Kutz did "wonder why the photographer's first instinct was to take pictures." To me, the answer to that question was obvious: Mr. Abbasi was a photo-journalist. He was not a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic. Mr. Abbasi was not in the business of saving lives but in the business of taking pictures.

     On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Charen Kim, a lawyer representing Mr. Han's wife Serim, told reporters that the family had been shocked by the New York Post photograph. The family didn't understand why no one helped Mr. Han. During the the press conference, the lawyer didn't mention Naemm Davis, the man responsible for Mr. Han's death.

     Naemm Davis was being held without bail on the charge of second-degree murder. He had a history of drug related arrests in Pennsylvania and New York.

     In a December 7, 2012 jailhouse interview with a reporter with the New York Post, Naeem Davis said he had been coaxed into shoving Mr. Han off the platform by voices in his head that he couldn't control.

     At his January 15, 2013 arraignment hearing Davis pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. According to police documents, Davis told investigators that the victim had "rolled like a bowling ball" when he fell onto the subway tracks. Because Davis was seething over a comment an acquaintance had made two days earlier about his Timberland boots, his "head wasn't where it was supposed to be that day. He [Ki-Suck Han] came at the wrong time."

     At the arraignment hearing, Defense attorney Stephen Pokart argued that Han, who had started the fight, was pursing his client. Prosecutor James Lin countered by pointing out how the defendant's statements revealed that he did not feel threatened and had acted out of anger and malice.

     In 2013, the victim's daughter, Ashley Han, sued the New York City Transit Authority for $30 million. (As of this writing, that case has not been resolved.)

     In March 2016, Naemm Davis pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter. The judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

     

2 comments:

  1. The sad part is, there were people who were close to the victim, who watched and didn't do anything. You can see it in the pictures.Why did no one help him? I'm outragged that commuters stand back while man desperately tries to escape the path of New York subway train.

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