NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Police Department has released a sketch of a man they say is connected to the assault of Muslim employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Police say she was attacked in Grand Central Station on her way to work Monday morning.
The assault took place at around 7 a.m. as the victim — Soha Salama, 45 — was heading to work on the 7 train. She was wearing an MTA uniform and a hijab at the time.
The suspect followed her off the train and shoved her down the stairs, police said.
Salama was taken to the hospital for treatment of leg injuries. She said she is in a lot of pain, but does not have any broken bones.
Late Monday, Salama was nursing a twisted knee and a swollen ankle following the attack.
“He called me terrorist, I shouldn’t work here, go back to country,” she said.
Salama told CBS2’s Valerie Castro said she was not able to say anything to the man.
“I wasn’t able to say anything. I was running for my life,” she said. “I was afraid he was going to throw me down the tracks or do more bad to me than he already did. He was like pushing me down.”
Salama has lived in New York for more than 20 years, and said she has never experienced such hate. While she said the incident has scared her, it hasn’t been enough to change the way she treats others.
“I will continue loving people. It doesn’t affect me as a person,” Salama said. “I will continue to love and care for everybody.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was furious following the attack.
“This is the great state of New York – we welcome people of all cultures, customs and creeds with open arms. We do not allow intolerance or fear to divide us because we know diversity is our strength and we are at our best when we stand united,” Cuomo said.
TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen issued this statement regarding the reported attack on a transit worker at Grand Central Terminal:
“Real New Yorkers don’t go after people because of their race or creed. Only ignorant, racist hate-filled fools do that. They don’t realize that our diversity is our strength and is what makes New Yorkers the greatest. We call for an increased police presence in the transit system to ensure the safety of all workers and riders.”
Cuomo said he has asked the MTA, State Police and Division of Human Rights to work with the NYPD to investigate the incident, along with a recent string of other hate crimes in the transit system. Last week, swastikas were found scrawled inside a 1 train, and KKK fliers were recently distributed at the Patchogue and Hampton Bay LIRR stations, Cuomo’s office said.
“The work of the Hate Crimes Task Force has never been more urgent and we will continue to crack down on this type of criminal behavior. I wish a speedy recovery for the victim, and want to let her know we are seeking justice for her and for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo’s announcement comes on the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio decried the alleged harassment of a Muslim NYPD officer.
“I was sick to my stomach when I heard that one of our officers was subjected to threats and taunting simply because of her faith,” de Blasio said.
Officer Aml Elsokary found a man shoving and yelling at her son, police said. When she intervened, the man yelled at her “ISIS (expletive), I will cut your throat, go back to your country!” according to police.
Elsokary said Monday that she became a cop to help all New Yorkers, regardless of their beliefs.
“I’m born and raised here and I’m here to protect you and I know that my department and my city is here to protect me,” she said. “I became a police officer to show the positive side of a New Yorker, Muslim woman that can do the job, that is non-bias, that I can help everybody no matter what’s your religion.”
The accused, 36-year-old Christopher Nelson of Bay Ridge, was arrested on charges including menacing as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment, authorities said. He was arraigned Monday and bail was set at $50,000.
Another Muslim woman was targeted on the subway last week.
On Thursday, an 18-year-old Muslim woman, Yasmin Seweid, says a group of men berated her on the subway.
“They were surrounding me from behind and they were like, ‘Oh look, it’s an f-ing terrorist,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has denounced the growing trend of attacks, pushing for increased federal funding to protect places of worship and non-profits from threats.