A Turkish-born artist who moved to New York six years ago was instantly paralyzed from the neck down after a man allegedly shoved her into a moving subway train in what a prosecutor described Wednesday as a “completely unprovoked" attack.
Kamal Semrade, 39, was charged with second-degree attempted murder and other crimes in the alleged assault at a subway station in Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Sunday, according to a criminal complaint filed in New York Criminal Court and obtained by NBC New York.
The 35-year-old victim had a cervical spine fracture, a scalp laceration and other injuries after Semrade “grabbed her head with both his hands and shoved her with all his force into the moving subway car,” assistant district attorney Carolyn McGuigan said Wednesday during Semrade's arraignment.
In a verified online fundraiser organized partly by her husband, the victim was identified as Emine Yilmaz Ozsoy.
She was instantly paralyzed and remains in critical condition with a high risk of death or stroke, McGuigan said.
The attack at the Lexington Avenue and East 63rd Street station occurred at 6:05 a.m. and was captured on security camera and seen by witnesses, McGuigan said.
Ozsoy, the former head page designer at an Istanbul newspaper, moved to New York City in 2017 and wanted to focus on her art, her husband said in a written statement posted to the fundraiser. She was on her way to work at the time, he said.
She and Semrade were on the same train and got off in Manhattan, McGuigan said.
Semrade followed — then shoved — her into the train as it "rapidly" left the station, McGuigan said.
“I just see him walk up beside her, to her left side, and with palms open just shove her head onto the train as it moved," witness Nancy Marrero told NBC New York.
Her body tumbled "in a circle and she just dropped onto the platform," Marrero told the station.
Semrade fled the station, McGuigan said. As Ozsoy lay on the subway platform, she said she couldn't feel her arm and asked if she was going to die, Marrero said, according to NBC New York.
"I was like, 'you're not gonna' die, don't worry, I'm here,'" Marrero told the station. "I'm gonna stay with you."
Court records show the New York Police Department took Semrade into custody Tuesday.
In the statement, Ozsoy's husband, Ferdi Ozsoy, thanked authorities and those who comforted his wife after the alleged assault. He said she had undergone a difficult surgery at Weill Cornell Medical Center and he expected a "long recovery journey" that will likely hinder the career she had established as an award-winning artist, painter and illustrator.
Ferdi Ozsoy described himself as his wife's only family in the United States and said he was seeking emergency visas for relatives to help with her care.
"Her life after this is going to need constant care," he said.
Rebecca Heinsen, a lawyer with The Legal Aid Society who is representing Semrade, said her client has never been in trouble with the legal system prior to this tragedy.
"At this current time, we ask the public to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions based on sensationalized reporting in the press," she said in an email.
Semrade, who was remanded into custody during Wednesday's hearing, is due back in court on Friday.