Police release sketch of man wanted for calling transit worker 'terrorist'

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- "You're a terrorist, go back to your own country!"

Soha Salama has lived in New York City for 20 years, and it's never happened before. She was confronted aboard a number 7 train on her way to work by a rider, who allegedly called her "a terrorist."

Salama is an MTA station agent. She was in uniform and wearing her traditional Muslim headdress, known as a hijab.

She got off the train at Grand Central Terminal where she says the man confronted her again and shoved her down the staircase.

"He pushed me down the stairs, yes," Salama said. "It's my first time I face something like that."

Police released a sketch of the man they say is responsible for this hate crime.

The individual is described as a Hispanic man, 25-35 years old, 5'.9" to 6'.0", 150 to 180 lbs. He was last seen wearing a dark colored jacket, and a black knitted winter hat.

The assault on Salama is only the latest in an apparent wave of hate crimes in NYC. They are up about 35 percent so far this year and up 115 percent since Election Day.

Authorities say the vast majority are classified as anti-Semitic.

But just this weekend, an off-duty Muslim NYPD officer was confronted in Brooklyn by a man who threatened to slit her throat.

A suspect is in custody in that case, but the man who assaulted Salama remains.

"We are trying to be a normal human being. It doesn't matter what color, what religion we are having," Salama said.

She's a working mother, raising four young children. She says she is determined not to let this change who she is and how she lives her life.

"We're going to be a little more cautious. I will continue to wear my hijab, I would never think about not wearing my hijab, I will still wear it. It's never going to affect me," Salama said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement Monday, saying in part:

"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."

If anyone has any information on this case or recognizes the man in the sketch you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.