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Person of interest held amid furor over New York Post photo scandal

New York Post cover for Dec. 4, 2012.

A New York Post front page photo of a man about to be hit by an oncoming subway train provoked fury Tuesday from readers wondering why nobody, including the photographer, didn't pull the victim to safety – and why the tabloid published the image.

Also Tuesday, police said they were holding a "person of interest" in the alleged crime. No charges have been laid.

Police say the victim was thrown onto the tracks during a fight Monday with a deranged man in a Manhattan subway station. He then staggered to his feet and tried, but failed to get out the way of a train, which killed him – in full view of a crowd of passengers.

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One of those bystanders was a freelance photographer from the Post who managed to take a series of photos, including the one occupying the whole front page Tuesday under the headline: "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die."

In a video report on the story, the Post appeared to suggest that the photo and two others in a double spread inside the newspaper, were unintentional byproducts of the photographer's rescue attempt.

"Not being strong enough to physically lift the victim himself the photographer used the only resources available to him and began rapidly flashing his camera to signal the train conductor to stop," the report said.

But readers quickly slammed the Post's photographer and editors for what they saw as a callous attitude to the bloody tragedy.

"Wow! enough time to take a few pictures. Why didn't the person help? How many pictures did they take? 3-4 pictures. And nobody tried to help. Not one person," wrote Joseph Monte on the Post's website.

Nicole Stagg, another reader, wrote: "There aren't many real men in NYC. Everyone is a sheep. This was Baaaaaaaad."

The Atlantic Wire website joined the outcry.

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"There's one big question about today's intense cover of the New York Post. Why didn't anyone help him? If there's enough time to capture a dying man's last moments before getting hit by an oncoming train that's that worthy of a tabloid cover, couldn't the photographer have lent a hand," the Atlantic said.

In the Post, the freelance photographer, R. Umar Abbasi, said that he used his camera principally to warn the approaching train driver. "I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash," he said.

But that didn't convince critics on Twitter.

"Claims he was using camera's flash to catch conductor's attention," Tweeted Ellen Comisar. "But result seems a tad too well composed."

"This is sickening," Tweeted Brian Frederick. "Why on earth would the NY Post put this on their cover? Seriously fcked up."

"Whoever took the picture that's on the cover of the NY Post should be arrested for not helping the dude that got killed," wrote "vodka n lime."

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