NEW YORK (AP) — A man suspected of setting a train fire that killed a New York City subway driver in March has been arrested and charged with murder, police said Friday.
Detectives linked Nathaniel Avinger, 50, to the fatal blaze after he was arrested Wednesday for allegedly groping a transit worker in Brooklyn.
Avinger remained in police custody Friday while awaiting arraignment in Manhattan on the murder charge. Online court records didn’t list an attorney representing Avinger in that matter. A message seeking comment was left with his lawyer in another pending case.
Avinger is accused of setting fire to a shopping cart aboard a No. 2 train as it pulled into the 110th Street station in Harlem, near Central Park around 3 a.m. on March 27.
The motorman, 36-year-old Garrett Goble, died after he and another transit employee helped passengers escape to safety, officials said. His body was found on the tracks. Several people were hurt.
Fires were also reported at around the same time at three nearby stations — 86th Street, 96th Street and 116th Street, officials said.
New York City Transit president Sarah Feinberg said in a statement that March 27 “was one of the darkest, most painful days in New York City Transit history.”
“There should be no tolerance for any form of violence in our transit system,” Feinberg said.
“Fires, sexual assaults, assaults on our workers — these are crimes committed against the very best of New York — the brave men and women who show up and serve this city each day and keep us all moving forward.”
The head of the union representing transit workers hailed Avinger’s arrest as “great news” and ”a huge first step.”
“Garrett was hero, and he was stolen from us,” said Tony Utano, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, in a statement. “He was out there serving the public during a health crisis. He helped riders evacuate his train after the fire was set. This was a horrific, horrific crime, and Garrett deserves justice. His family deserves justice.”
Avinger had at least two other pending criminal cases prior to Wednesday’s arrest.
He was picked up on March 31, four days after the fire that killed Goble, and charged with arson in a March 11 blaze in Manhattan. He was also arrested March 19 for allegedly damaging property in the Bronx.
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