Mon Dec 31, 2012, 04:22 AM
alp227 (29,590 posts)
Troubled Past for Suspect in Fatal Subway Push
(Reuters photo that came with the article)
Long before Erika Menendez was charged with pushing a stranger to his death under an oncoming train at a Queens elevated station, she had years of contact with New York Cityís mental health and law enforcement establishments. She was treated by the psychiatric staffs of at least two city hospitals, and caseworkers visited her family home in Queens to provide further help. She was also arrested at least three times, according to the police, twice after violent confrontations.
Ms. Menendezís years of inner and outer turmoil culminated in the deadly assault on an unsuspecting man who was waiting for a train on Thursday. Beyond stirring fear among riders on crowded platforms across the city, the attack also raised new questions about the safeguards in a patchwork private and public mental health system that is supposed to allow mentally ill people to live as freely as possible in the community while protecting them and the public.
D. J. Jaffe, the executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Organization, an advocacy group, said that thousands of troubled individuals with violent histories were released from mental health facilities, and that beyond requiring that they have a home to go to and an outpatient care plan in place, there was little oversight of their activities.
In 2003, according to the police, she attacked another stranger, Daniel Conlisk, a retired firefighter, as he took out his garbage in Queens.
Just two months earlier, Ms. Menendez was accused of hitting and scratching another man in Queens. She was also arrested on cocaine possession charges the same year.
Between 2005 and February this year, the police responded five times to calls from relatives reporting difficulties in dealing with Ms. Menendez, reportedly stemming from her failure to take certain medication, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about her medical history. In one of these instances, in 2010, she threw a radio at one of the responding officers, the official said.
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