Daniel Penny Defends Using Chokehold That Killed Jordan Neely

The ex-Marine says in a video released by his lawyers that he felt intimidated by the mentally ill man who allegedly threatened subway passengers.

Daniel Penny, the Marine Corps veteran charged in the chokehold killing of Jordan Neely, broke his silence about what happened on the New York City subway train where the fatal encounter happened on May 1.

Penny, 24, defended his actions in a video statement his lawyers released Sunday (June 11), saying that the homeless man who suffered from mental illness entered the subway car and threatened passengers.

“The man stumbled on, he appeared to be on drugs, the doors closed, and he ripped his jacket off and threw it down at the people sitting next to me at my left,” Penny alleged, adding, "The three main threats he repeated over and over was 'I'm going to kill you,' 'I'm prepared to go to jail for life,' and 'I'm willing to die.'"

A viral video shows Penny, who is white, restraining Neely, a 30-year-old Black man, in a chokehold. It ignited protests after the police questioned but released Penny.

The city’s medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide caused by “compression of neck (chokehold).” Penny surrendered to authorities May 12 and was charged with second-degree manslaughter.

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Penny, who is 6’2”, said he felt intimidated by Neely, who was bigger than him, but he couldn’t sit and do nothing to prevent Neely from following through on his alleged threats. “I was scared for myself but I looked around there was women and children, he was yelling in their faces saying these threats. I just couldn’t sit still,” Penny said.

The police said Neely threw trash at passengers, according to The New York Daily News. That  led to an argument with Penny who allegedly approached Neely from behind and applied a chokehold.

“Some people say that I was holding on to Mr. Neely for 15 minutes. This is not true — between stops is only a couple of minutes. So the whole interaction lasted less than 5 minutes,” Penny stated. “Some people say I was trying to choke him to death — which is also not true. I was trying to restrain him.”

But an attorney representing Neely’s family previously disputed Penny’s stated intentions.

"Daniel Penny chose, intentionally chose, a technique to use that is designed to cut off air — that's what he chose — and he chose to continue to hold that chokehold minute after minute, second after second, until there was no life left in Jordan Neely," attorney Lennon Edwards said Friday, according to CBS News.

Penny also denied that Neely’s race was involved.

"Some people say this was about race, which is absolutely ridiculous. I didn't see a Black man threatening passengers. I saw a man threatening passengers. A lot of whom were people of color," Penny stated.

Neely was a Michael Jackson impersonator who would dress up like the late king of pop and thrill audiences on the subways. According to The New York Post, Neely suffered from PTSD and depression. He was arrested 42 times over the past decade, including punching a 67-year-old female train passenger in the face in November 2021.

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