A judge ordered that the man suspected of fatally shoving a stranger in front of an oncoming subway train be held without bail. However, his public defender told reporters yesterday, "I’d like to take this moment just to remind everyone that Kevin Darden is a human being. He is not a monster."
Kevin Darden, 34, was charged with murder in the death of Wai Kuen Kwok at the 167th Street subway station on Sunday morning. According to authorities, Kwok had been waiting at the southbound D train platform with his wife (they were going to Chinatown for groceries and to celebrate her birthday over lunch) when Darden suddenly pushed the 61-year-old into the tracks. The train operator said, "I see a body flying across the tracks. I knew that it wasn’t an ordinary jump on the tracks. The guy didn’t go straight down, he was actually in the air."
Police conducted an intense manhunt to find the suspect, who was seen on surveillance video taking a Bx35 bus and casually buying then smoking a cigarette after the incident. A man who had been pushed at the West 4th Street subway station earlier this month recognized the person in the surveillance video as his attacker, and police were able to get a warrant for Darden's arrest.
Darden has a history of at least 50 arrests; the NY Times reports, "For most of his adult life, wherever Kevin Darden went, he found trouble with the law. There were arrests on minor charges, like theft and marijuana possession, and on bigger ones — choking a girlfriend; punching a 73-year-old stranger; and menacing Midtown Manhattan pedestrians with a metal broomstick. Relatives in East Texas tried to help, once finding him a job there and giving him a place to stay. Within a month, he tried to burn his brother’s house down..."
Darden's mother says he is mentally ill and a police source told the Post, "He’s on the street because of a game that the district attorneys’ offices play. Everybody’s culpable, from the judge to the ADAs. We’re making the arrests in good faith, and they’re not getting prosecuted.” Darden had been arrested for a robbery a few days before the subway shoving, but was released because the victim, a tourist, left the country. The source added, "The perps read the papers, they know how the system works. They know the guy’s not coming back [to America] for a simple grand larceny so they target tourists who are going to leave town."
D.J. Jaffe, of the Mental Illness Policy Org., lamented NY's mental health policies to WCBS 2, "The mother knew he was mentally ill. The mother couldn’t get treatment. He circled in and out of the system, and when he became dangerous, then they allowed him treatment. New York requires you to become dangerous to yourself or others before you get treatment. That’s ludicrous." Jaffe also pointed out many psychiatric hospital have closed, "It’s harder to get into Bellevue than it is Harvard, and once you’re in Bellevue they discharge you sicker and quicker. It’s a catch-and-release policy."
Edward McGowan, Darden's lawyer, said, "Like any human being who's charged with a crime in this country he's entitled to the presumption of innocence and to a vigorous defense which I can guarantee he is going to get. I would just ask the public and the media to refrain from jumping from any conclusions regarding Mr. Darden or this terrible incident."
Kwok's family released a statement saying, "We extend our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of condolences, prayers, and support during this difficult time."