MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A 39-year-old homeless man who punched a man in the face before shoving a 30-year-old woman on the subway tracks at a Midtown subway station is in police custody.
The suspect, Sabir Jones, was picked up in Newark on Thursday afternoon after he was spotted panhandling outside Penn Station Newark, near the PATH train.
A passerby recognized him from the media. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and is expected to be brought back to New York City.
The second victim came forward late Wednesday after seeing reports of the woman who was apparently randomly shoved to the tracks at the 5th Ave / 53 St station around noon.
The man reported to police he was punched in the face in the same station, moments before the suspect went on to shove the woman.
That 30-year-old victim was on the southbound E train platform when she was pushed as a train was going by. She hit her head on the back of the train and then fell onto the tracks, authorities said.
Bystanders on the platform helped pull her off the tracks and back onto the platform as the suspect ran off. She underwent emergency surgery and officials say she continues to fight for her life.
Police say surveillance cameras all over the 5th Avenue and 53rd Street station captured Jones walking out of the station after allegedly pushing that woman.
Jones is a homeless man "known to the department" through his history of declining help from outreach workers, who have documented his mental illness and drug abuse.
Sources say he was first encountered by homeless outreach workers in Nov. 2021, months after he was reported missing by family in February from Newark. Family told Newark police he had been diagnosed with depression and psychosis.
Outreach workers interacted with Jones at various subway stations, including one a few weeks later in Queens. He was described as non-threatening and a good candidate for a safe haven. But he did not appear to have accepted offers to go to a shelter.
Jones was charged in December with resisting arrest for riding between subway cars in Brooklyn, refusing to leave the station and fighting with officers. He has one previous "emotionally disturbed person" interaction with police.
City leaders say progress is being made, but more needs to be done to help people with mental illness get off the streets.
"Listen, in the past year we have made tremendous progress on subway crime. Crime is nine percent down where it was the past year before COVID. But, that's no consolation to the family of this young woman," MTA CEO and Chair Janno Lieber said.
Lieber has sympathy for those struggling with mental illness, but said they "cannot be in the public space where our riders are experiencing attack, we're feeling threatened."
The NYPD says there have been 15 incidents of people being pushed onto the subway tracks so far this year compared to 22 by this time last year.