The New York Criminal Law Blog

Man Charged for Subway Pushing; What About the Photographer?

The last moment of Ki Suk Han’s life was caught on film. A photographer, from the New York Post, managed to take an in focus picture of Han, trying to climb onto the platform, moments before he was struck by the oncoming train, all while trying to warn the oncoming train conductor by flashing his camera repeatedly.

The alleged murderer has been caught. Naeem Davis, 30, confessed after a transit cop recognized him from surveillance footage. Davis claimed that the two had bumped into each other at the turnstiles and continued to argue on the platform, reports the New York Post. Davis also reportedly told police, “I begged him to leave me alone, and he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t stay away, and I pushed him.” He was charged with murder earlier this morning.

As of now, the facts seem to point to a drunk victim, fresh off a fight with his wife, and carrying a bottle of vodka, getting into an argument with a homeless drifter, who overreacted and threw the victim onto the platform. Some witnesses say that Davis was the aggressor. Others say that the victim was the aggressor. Either way, self-defense is inapplicable. A person is only privileged to use as much force as is necessary to protect themselves from danger. Unless Han was trying to kill Davis, the subway push was unnecessary.

The other part of the story that has gotten the attention of New Yorkers is the photo taken by R. Umar Abbasi, which the Post used as their cover image. The disturbing photo brings to mind the falling man photo from 9/11, which also captured a man in the last moments of his life, facing certain death. The difference here is that bystanders may have been able to help him.

The photographer has gotten the brunt of the criticism. Many have argued that instead of photographing the man's death, he should have ran to his rescue. He defended himself to the Post, stating that he was too weak to pull a man off of the tracks, that the supposed murderer was running towards him, and that there was no way for him to make it to the victim in time. He also pointed out that there were a number of other bystanders who did nothing and were a lot closer to the victim.

Unfortunately for Han, there were no good Samaritans close enough to him to pull him out of the way of the train. For those who find the indifference and inaction of the bystanders to be inexcusable, know that while there may be a moral obligation to try to help, there is no legal obligation. Under the law, there is no duty for a bystander to rescue someone, even if they are able.

Related Resources: