This week, a seemingly emotionally disturbed woman dropped a box of crickets and worms on the floor of a crowded D train, causing pandemonium and panic. It has since come out that the woman is actually a self-proclaimed "actress" who orchestrated the incident as part of a viral "prank." Zaida Pugh apologized for the prank to Gothamist today, but it may be too little too late: sources tell the Post and the News that she may be facing criminal charges for her stunt.
Update: Apparently the NYPD Warrant Squad is looking for her. More below.
Pugh, who says she's 21-years-old, told us that the video was meant to be a performance art piece about the treatment of homeless people: "The point of the video was to show how people react to homeless people, how people look down at them," she said, adding that she's been performing similar video stunts for the last four years. "It was also to show how people are so fixated on recording stuff, instead of helping other people. Even before I posted the video, people had their own videos up."
She had dressed up as a homeless woman selling crickets onboard a D train during rush hour on Wednesday night. Pugh got some teens to knock the box out of her hand, sending the bugs scattering throughout the train, and had a second party record the whole incident. "The bugs went all over the place and people started freaking out, and long story short, the emergency brake got pulled," she explained. "I stayed in character, and was taken to the hospital for an evaluation." Pugh also peed herself as part of the stunt.
Although she stands by her original intentions for the video, she was apologetic over how out of control things got: "I'm sorry about the situation and hope not to be be involved in anything like that," she said, adding that she was considering changing "the way I do my work."
As for what she thought people should have done in the situation, she believes people should intervene in public more: "Once they saw something about to start, someone should have gotten involved," she said. "The first thing they shouldn't have done is run, laugh and record."
She was also adamant that no one should have pulled the emergency brake, trapping straphangers on the Manhattan Bridge with the bugs for nearly half an hour and causing even more of a panic. "Don't pull the emergency brakes," she repeated several times during our conversation. "When the lady did that everyone went off on her, don't do that."
She hasn't had any other contact with the police since the incident, but she admits she could be charged: "I don't want to think about it," she said. "I guess whatever happens happens. I can't get mad if they do charge me." She adds that she is planning to ease back on the public actions in the future: "I'll try to be more careful in future projects...and I'll never involve bugs in the situation again. Nothing involving bugs."
Update, August 29, 2016: The Daily News now reports, "The NYPD Warrant Squad is out looking for... Pugh, 21, and will likely arrest her on reckless endangerment charges." She had originally wanted to use cockroaches, not crickets, for her "prank."