The man of the hour is Rikien Wilder, a New Jersey native who risked life and limb to stop the madman who allegedly threw construction debris on the tracks in the 14th Street station of the A-C-E trains on Sunday ending in a derailment.
Wilder said it all boils down to a good upbringing by his mother who taught him the value of helping out one’s fellow human that inspired him to spring into action attempting to stop Demetrius Harvard, 30, from committing an allegedly deliberate attempt to cause havoc and later restraining the Bronx man for 15 minutes until police arrived.
For his troubles, the MTA awarded Wilder with a free unlimited MetroCard for a year, as well as a “New York Tough” t-shirt and a plague that reads “Hero of the Subway.”
Harvard has since been charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, assault and criminal trespass.
“My mother always encouraged me to look out for people in the neighborhood so it was kind of a natural thing for me to respond to the guy n the subway like I did. It angered me a little bit because he tried to get some joy out of breaking the train and potentially harming people, so I took it upon myself to apprehend the [perpetrator],” Wilder said. “I felt really angry, I was disturbed, I was in shock watching him smile and the train wreck. The fire and the smoke, it was like being on a Hollywood set. It was overstimulating… My adrenaline kicked in and I had to do something.”
At around 8:15 in the morning, Harvard was allegedly seen throwing building materials onto the northbound A train track. By Wilder’s account, his first attempt to remove the obstruction from the tracks was thwarted by more debris as he left momentarily to warn MTA staff about the issue. While trying to get the additional objects thrown onto the tracks, Wilder said he abandoned the task as he felt a train approaching the station.
When the first car of the A train entered the station and came off the tracks, damaging several hundred feet of third track and plowing into support columns in the station, Wilder says he then turned his attention to keeping Harvard at the scene. This involved a chokehold and a threat to break the man’s arm.
“Normally we don’t encourage riders–customers to go down onto the tracks, but in this case, Mr. Wilder did it at great peril to himself and in the interest of protecting the lives of New Yorkers, fellow customers and our employees. Extraordinary,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.
According to Foye, the year of unlimited rides is the highest honor the MTA can award to civilians.