Accused in subway case battled with depression — (Globe and Mail)

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Globe and Mail

CAROLINE ALPHONSO

February 15, 2009 at 11:12 PM EST

A man accused of pushing two teenage boys into the path of an oncoming subway train Friday afternoon lived a normal life up until a year ago, when he became depressed and started taking antidepressants, according to a person familiar with the case.

The medication was inhibiting his sex drive and he was unsure whether to continue taking it. But when he went for a checkup earlier this month, his doctor increased the dosage, a source said.

Dressed in beige pants, a yellow shirt and a leather jacket, the man looked clean-cut and not out of place among the other subway passengers at Dufferin station.

“He was very well dressed. He was somebody that you wouldn’t expect this with the way he was dressed,” said TTC collector Russell Cormier, hailed as a hero for holding the suspect until police arrived.

Adenir DeOliveira, 47, owner of a small lawn-sprinkling business, appeared in court this weekend and was remanded into custody until a bail hearing Tuesday. He is charged with three counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault. Three boys were shoved, but one did not fall from the platform.

When the suspect was being handcuffed by a police officer a few blocks outside the station, Mr. Cormier recalled him babbling. “He was just mumbling that he was at the hospital for 12 hours, and he’s got no medication and he needs help and [he kept saying] ‘I’m so sorry, I’m sorry.’”

A source, however, said no evidence has been found that the accused was in a hospital or waiting at one for 12 hours.

The scene that unfolded at Dufferin station during the height of rush hour on Friday was one of chaos when five boys, all aged 15 and 14, were on the platform when a man approached them and shoved three of them, sending two off the ledge.

One of the teens thrown onto the tracks was Jacob Greenspon, the 15-year-old son of Globe and Mail editor-in-chief Edward Greenspon.

The other victim, a 14-year-old boy who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, rolled to safety underneath the lip of the platform. He grabbed Jacob and pulled him far enough out of the way that the train, its driver braking hard, struck only his left foot.

Mr. Cormier and his colleague Joseph De Gabrielis heard the squeal of a braking train followed by panicked screams. People ran up the stairs yelling, “He threw kids! He threw kids!”

Mr. Cormier flew out of the collector booth and gave chase. The suspect took a swing at him, and then at Mr. De Gabrielis, before making his way outside. Mr. De Gabrielis, 32, recalled: “You could kind of tell he was mentally disturbed. You could see it on his face. He looked more scared than angry.”

Mr. Cormier, 47, caught up with the suspect two blocks south of the station as he was about to enter a Pizza Hut restaurant. “I saw little kids in the windows. He went to go into that restaurant, and something came over me that gave me enough strength to lunge and tackle him,” Mr. Cormier said yesterday.

He knocked the suspect down and stood over him waiting for a police officer to arrive. “He had a crazy look in his face. He looked like he was looking right through you,” he said. “He looked blank.”

The TTC collectors brushed off praise for their heroic efforts in stopping the suspect.

“I thought of my kids. All I was thinking about was my kids,” said Mr. Cormier, who has two teenaged children.

The last incident of a fatal subway pushing was in 1997, when 23-year-old Charlene Minkowski was pushed at Dundas station by Herbert Cheong, a 41-year-old man with a 20-year history of mental illness.

Every subway platform has yellow tiles that indicate the edge of the platform. Stations also have a platform lip, a safety feature for those who find themselves on track level, like the two teenage boys.

Friday’s incident has highlighted the need for platform screen doors that would protect commuters from falling onto the subway tracks. Brand new systems with automated trains often have them, but retrofitting the subway would cost billions, said city councillor and TTC chairman Adam Giambrone. He also pointed out that the screens only work with automatic train control, such as the system on the Scarborough RT line.

“The debate is somewhat premature at this point. Not that it isn’t an important issue, not that it wouldn’t be a good thing to have. But it’s not really possible until we finish ATC,” he said.

With a report from Christie Blatchford