The U.S. marine veteran who was filmed putting Jordan Neely in a chokehold on the New York City subway this week was warned by bystanders that he is “going to kill” the homeless Black man who later lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The veteran was identified by a former senior law enforcement official as Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old from West Islip, Long Island, Insider reported Friday. Neely, a 30-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator who was homeless, was reportedly yelling and pacing back and forth on an F train in Manhattan Monday afternoon when several people tackled and restrained him, according to police and witnesses.
A video of the incident was posted online by freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, showing Penny lying under Neely and restraining him in a chokehold position for several minutes. Neely tried to break free as another passenger pinned his arms and another person held down his shoulder.
The city’s medical examiner said Neely died from compression of the neck and classified the death as a homicide. The examiner’s office said that it is up to the legal system to determine whether the incident is of criminal liability. Meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said it is investigating.
In an extended video of the incident cited by the Daily Mail on Friday, Penny reportedly continued to hold Neely in the headlock position even after the homeless man faltered after two minutes and six seconds reaching the point when a bystander stepped onto the train. The man who was not seen in the video can be heard telling Penny that Neely had defecated.
“He’s defecated on himself… you’re going to kill him now,” the man reportedly said, according to the Daily Mail.
Neely was detained but he was later released without charges. However, Joseph Giacalone, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College, told The Guardian on Friday that he believed Penny could be considered for charges of manslaughter or negligent homicide given the contents of the video. Manslaughter and negligent homicide are both unintentional killings that are less serious than a murder charge, but are still treated as an illegal crime.
Vazquez told the New York Post that Neely was screaming “in an aggressive manner” before he was held to the ground.
“He said he had no food, he had no drink, that he was tired and doesn’t care if he goes to jail,” Vazquez said, adding that Neely did not attack anyone, but Penny approached him after he threw his jacket to the ground.
Neely’s death sparked outrage with some pointing that Penny’s response was an overreaction to a person suffering from mental illness. Protesters gathered Wednesday afternoon in the subway station where Neely was held down by Penny and called for an arrest.
“…Jordan Neely’s murder is the direct result of efforts to dehumanize & demonize NYers experiencing homelessness, living with mental illness, or just existing in the world as Black and poor,” the Open Hearts Initiative tweeted on Wednesday. The organization says on its website that it supports homeless New Yorkers and advocates for “housing justice in their own backyards.”
Meanwhile, Jawanza Williams, director of organizing at Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL-NY), blamed New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul for Neely’s death. VOCAL-NY is a grassroots organization that helps and advocates for low-income people across the state who are directly affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs, homelessness, and mass incarceration, according to their website.
“We are living in a state where a Mayor and Governor successfully campaigned to keep poor people in jails, flooded our subways with cops, and a white man can kill a Black man and be released without charge. The murder of Jordan Neely is a direct result of the sustained political, systemic abandonment and dehumanization of people experiencing homelessness and mental health complexities, fueled by press coverage that clearly influences policies and emboldens vigilantes,” Williams said in a statement on Wednesday.
Newsweek reached out by phone to Alvin Bragg’s office for comment.