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Suspect arrested, photographer on defense after NYC subway death

5:15 PM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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This image, from video released by police, shows Ki-Suk Han arguing with the man accused of pushing him into a subway's path. This is not the photo published by the New York Post. (CNN.com)

NEW YORK -- A New York Post freelance photographer who has come under fire for taking photos of a man shortly before he was fatally struck by a subway train defended himself Wednesday, saying there was no way he could have saved the man.

Ki-Suk Han, a 58 year old from Queens, was fatally struck by a Q train in the 49th Street station in Manhattan on Monday after being pushed on to the tracks following an argument with an assailant.

Police took Naeem Davis into custody after they said the 30-year-old former deli worker made statements implicating himself in the crime. 

"He's been charged with murder," said police officer James Duffy. Davis has several prior minor arrests on his record.

Witnesses told police the suspect was mumbling to himself before having a loud argument with Han that was partially caught on video by a bystander. Han was then pushed onto the tracks and struck by an oncoming Q train.

"It was horrifying,'' witness Leigh Wingus told NBC News. "It was terrible. Everyone was screaming, 'Stop the train, there's a man on the tracks!' And all I saw was that it clearly didn't stop in time for him to survive.''  

On Tuesday, the New York Post ran a photo by one its freelance photographers depicting Han struggling to pull himself up from the tracks as the train approached, using the headline "Doomed."

The photographer, R. Umar Abbasi, was subjected to a firestorm of criticism across the Web from people who felt he should have helped Han instead of taking the photos. The Post was also attacked for deciding to use the morbid photo on its cover with that headline.  

"My condolences to the family, and if I could have, I would have pulled Mr. Han out,'' Abbasi told Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. "I didn't care about the photographs. If you were to see the raw photographs, you would say, I cannot see anything in them.''

Abbasi said the photographs were very dark and were lightened by the New York Post. He also said he was paid for usage of the photographs.

"I was approached that there would be interest,'' he said. "I would call it licensing to use it. Selling a photograph of this nature sounds morbid. I licensed these photographs. (How the image was used) is not my decision. I was on assignment. I don't control what image is used and how it used and how it is presented."

Abbasi saw Han flung onto the tracks out of his peripheral vision and said he was about 150 feet away from him when the incident occurred. He estimated that about 20 to 22 seconds elapsed between when he saw Han and when Han was fatally struck, during which time he snapped the photographs. His intent was to use his flash to alert the subway train driver that there was an issue on the tracks, he said.

"If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not and I was running towards it, there was no way I could've rescued Mr. Han,'' he said. "If I was in a reachable distance, I would've grabbed him and tried to pull him.'' 

"I think the photographer did what he was trained to do, which is to capture a picture of drama that was taking place before him,'' former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt told NBC News. "So all we can do is try to understand, and again, we're not in that photographer's position."

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(USA Today contributed to this report.)

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