Rafu Staff Report
The murder of Michelle Alyssa Go in New York’s Times Square is being mourned by Asian Americans across the country, especially in the Bay Area, where she grew up.
The 40-year-old was waiting for a train on Jan. 15 when she was pushed into the path of the train by a homeless man identified as Simon Martial, 61, who later turned himself in. Police said there was no interaction between Go and Martial before the unprovoked attack.
Those who knew Go said it was ironic that she was killed by a vagrant after years of volunteering to helping the homeless.
“It’s a tragic loss of life to someone who was giving back to the New York City community,” said NYC Junior League President Dayna Cassidy.
Dion Lim of ABC7 in San Francisco, who has been covering the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, said, “Born in Berkeley, raised in Fremont [where she graduated from American High School] — and tragically killed as she was pushed in front of a subway train in Times Square Saturday morning .,.
“Even though Michelle’s case isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, I can’t tell you how many leads I get almost daily on Asians being attacked senselessly in the Bay Area. Something on a grand scale needs to be done. This is simply out of control.”
Lim announced that a candlelight vigil in memory of Go was planned for Tuesday evening in San Francisco Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square, in tandem with a vigil planned in Times Square. Another vigil is set for Friday from 7 to 8 p.m. in Fremont’s Downtown Event Center Plaza.
Author Helen Zia, who led the “Justice for Vincent Chin” movement in the 1980s, pointed out that this was not an isolated incident. “Just because anti-Asian hate isn’t in the headlines so much now doesn’t mean it has disappeared. There have been a number of Asians killed after being pushed in front of subway trains, including at the Canal Street station when a pregnant Asian American woman was pushed and killed by a white man who said he had a ‘fear of Asians.’
“That was in the 1980s when there was strong anti-Japan and anti-Asian hate. Since the supposed ‘fear’ of Asians was not ‘hate,’ it wasn’t prosecuted as a hate crime; I’m not sure if any of these subway killings have been. Aren’t all killers mentally and emotionally deficient in some way?
“Try to stay safe, everyone — and let public officials and political leaders know that we demand public safety for all, including AAPIs!”
Go’s family said in a statement, “We are in a state of shock and grieving the loss of our daughter, sister, and friend. We hope Michelle will be remembered for how she lived and not just how she died. She was a beautiful, brilliant, kind, and intelligent woman who loved her family and friends, loved to travel the world and to help others. Her life was taken too soon in a senseless act of violence, and we pray that she gets the justice she deserves.”
Margaret Fung, executive director of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in New York, said, “As we finish out a second year into the pandemic, violent attacks on Asian Americans have continued unabated. This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is particularly horrifying for our community, which is mourning the recent death of Yao Pan Ma, who was attacked last year in Harlem.
“These attacks have left Asian Americans across the city and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop.”
AALDEF called on Mayor Eric Adams “to strengthen City Hall’s relationship with New York’s AAPI community by establishing a Mayor’s Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs.”
AALDEF, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families, and other community organizations demanded “visibility and action on the issues affecting our communities.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, “I am horrified to learn about this heinous crime in our city and devastated over the death of this woman. It is a terrible and senseless tragedy and my heart aches for her loved ones at this difficult time.
“This incident highlights the need to ensure that all New Yorkers who use mass transit are safe, and that those in need of mental health services receive the help they require.
“I am committed to working with our new Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. [Kathy] Hochul and their administrations to address these concerns. I spoke with the mayor and governor today, and joined the mayor at the scene this afternoon. I thank them for reaching out and for being responsive.”
Meng was among the speakers at the Times Square vigil, where images of Go and other recent victims of anti-Asian violence were shown on the big screens.
An MBA graduate of NYU’s prestigious Stern School of Business with a BA from UCLA, Go lived on the Upper West Side.
Go’s employer, Deloitte, posted the following message: “It is with deep sadness that we share the news that our colleague, Michelle Go, lost her life in an unthinkable tragedy. Michelle, a Consulting senior manager, was killed when a stranger inexplicably pushed her in front of an oncoming NYC subway train. We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the devastating loss of our colleague in this senseless and horrific act of violence. Our hearts go out to Michelle’s family and friends and we are doing all we can to support them during this terribly painful time.
“All of us in the Deloitte family are hurting right now, and we have seen a particularly strong outpouring from members of our New York City community and members of our Asian community.
“Michelle made a tremendous impact during her life and career. She joined Deloitte almost four years ago, bringing with her a wealth of experience and a genuine passion for developing others. Throughout her impressive career, Michelle served many domestic and international clients across M&A, Restructuring, and Finance with excellence.
“Michelle was a trusted leader who always shared her honest opinion and would go above and beyond to deliver excellent outcomes. From the warm welcome and anecdotes she shared at Deloitte new hire sessions, to her efforts to broaden the representation of women in M&A through the Women in M&A program, Michelle was someone who was constantly thinking of how to enhance the talent experience.
“Perhaps Michelle’s greatest legacy was that she was fearless and believed life was to be lived and you should make the most of the time you have. Whether she was traveling around the world, watching her beloved UCLA Bruins, doing work in the community, or spending time with her friends and family, she was making an extraordinary impact on everyone around her.”
Deloitte hosted a “reflections conversation” on Wednesday “to honor Michelle’s incredible life and legacy. We are also in the process of evaluating how best Deloitte can honor Michelle’s life by making significant contributions to causes in the community that she selflessly devoted so much of her energy to advance.”
A Facebook group called Asian Dawn, which describes itself as “the alternative voice for Asian Americans,” said, “The media will do everything they can to make us forget her for the sake of ‘unity.’ Don’t let them win. Never forget our sister.”
Similar Case in L.A.
Go’s case is similar to the death of Betty Sugiyama, 84, who was walking on the Metro Gold Line platform in Little Tokyo with her 86-year-old sister Mary in November 2010 when she was pushed off the platform, without provocation, and landed on the tracks below. She struck her head and never regained consciousness.
The attacker, Jackkqueline Pogue, 46, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. In 2012, the jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction and a mistrial was declared. Some of the jurors said there was disagreement on whether Pogue acted deliberately, in conscious disregard for life, and whether she fully understood the consequences of her actions.
In 2013, a jury found Pogue guilty of second-degree murder but also found that she was legally insane at the time of the attack. Experts had testified during the sanity phase of the trial that Pogue had been severely mentally ill for most of her life.
Sugiyama lived in the Tokyo Villa apartments on Central Avenue with her sister and her brother John. Born in Seattle, she grew up in Little Tokyo and was incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming during World War II. After the war, she opened Rafu Shoten, a general store on Weller Street, and she later worked for Kinokuniya Bookstore. On the day of the attack, the sisters had planned to spend the day in Long Beach.