Lawyers: Man Who Fatally Choked Jordan Neely Was Defending Self, Others

Daniel Penny ‘never intended to harm’ the homeless man on the NYC subway, attorneys say, but many are calling for justice.

A Marine Corps veteran broke his silence after using a chokehold May 1 that killed Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man reportedly struggling with mental illness and homeless, on a New York City train.

Lawyers for Daniel Penny, 24, issued a statement Friday (May 5) saying that Penny acted in self-defense.

“When Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived,” the statement read, adding that the former Marine “never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” according to The New York Daily News.

The lawyers called Neely’s death – ruled by the medical examiner a homicide caused by compression of the neck – a “tragic incident.”

“For too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference,” the statement continued. “We hope that out of this awful tragedy will come a new commitment by our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways.”

Neely’s death, captured on video, sparked protests when the police released Penny without charging him with a crime. Advocates for the homeless and mentally ill are calling for Penny’s arrest.

Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYC transit cop, has urged patience as the police continue their investigation into Neely’s “tragic” death, saying, “There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened here,” The New York Times reported.

But a lawyer for Neely’s family told The Times that immediate action is needed. “He was robbed of his life in a brutal way by someone who decided that they were judge, jury and executioner on the spot. We can’t have vigilantes, and we can’t have people taking the law into their own hands,” attorney Lennon Edwards said.

Anger Grows Over Chokehold Death Of Homeless Michael Jackson Impersonator At Hands Of Marine On NYC Subway

Juan Alberto Vazquez, who recorded the incident, told The Times that Neely began screaming when he entered the subway car, telling passengers that he was hungry and thirsty before throwing his jacket on the ground.

“‘I’m tired already. I don’t care if I go to jail and get locked up. I’m ready to die,’” Vazquez recalled Neely’s words.

Investigators said Neely and Penny were in “a verbal dispute” that escalated into a physical altercation, NBC News reported.

Lawyers for Neely’s family told The Times that a witness told them that Penny came up behind Neely and grabbed him.

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. The Daily News reported that he was arrested 42 times over the past decade, including punching a female train passenger, 67, in the face in November 2021.

Some New Yorkers also sympathize with Penny, pointing to the fear they experience in the city’s subway system, and expressed mixed feelings.

“The train is always a scary place,” Ayden James, 28, told The Times. But James, who was at a demonstration last week calling for justice, said Neely didn’t appear threatening to her. “He just was asking for help, for food and for shelter,” James added.

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