By Ashley Wright
If the constant snowstorms and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases on campus were not enough to convince you to stay inside, here is another reason: the A-train Ripper. Amidst the usual Public Safety emails, students also received an alert on subway safety that at first may have seemed slightly unprompted halfway through the start of this semester. The email in question lined out standard safety practices such as being aware of your surroundings and avoiding going off alone. While these tips may seem like common sense to some and helpful to others, the most notable aspect of the email is the timing. Though not explicitly mentioned by Public Safety other than being referred to as “recent incidents in the news media” this email is likely a response to the sensationally termed “A-Train Ripper,” a spree stabber on the subway in early February.
On the morning of Friday February 12th four people were stabbed on the A-train and at connected stations, resulting in two deaths and two critical injuries. The victims were three homeless men and a woman, ranging in ages from 43 to 57 years-old, and were attacked reportedly unprovoked. Of the two surviving victims, one had to undergo surgery following the attack but both have since recovered. While the stabbings happened in quick succession to one another, the suspect was not arrested until late the next night.
In response to these attacks, nearly 500 additional police officers were stationed along the subway system as well as 75 plainclothes officers who were dispatched onto various trains. After a large search, police arrested 21-year-old Rigoberto Lopez, a homeless man from Brooklyn.
At the time of Lopez’s arrest it was reported that he was still wearing blood-soaked shoes and clothes, and that he was also in possession of the alleged weapon. There is still a lot that is unknown about Lopez and the stabbings, but several news outlets have alleged that he has a previous history of mental illness and has been hospitalized at least twice in the past. It has also been reported that Lopez had previously been arrested four times, once for allegedly assaulting both his father and a police officer.
Once he was taken into custody, Lopez underwent a psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital and ultimately confessed to the stabbings which in total spanned 15 hours from Friday into Saturday. The New York Police Department released a statement on Twitter on Sunday February 14th announcing that Lopez was being charged with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and two counts of second-degree attempted murder.
As a result of these attacks, MTA chairman Patrick Foye and interim New York City Transit chief Sarah Feinberg have reportedly asked for an increased number of officers to be assigned to monitor the transit system on a regular basis. The reported number calls for an increase of more than 1500 police officers, which is three times greater than the number NYPD committed to reassigning. These attacks are indicative of the slight raises in crime that New York has seen since the start of the pandemic, and as stated in the school’s advisory emails should serve as a reminder to stay vigilant and safe.