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Daniel J. Penny, the 24-year-old subway rider who was seen in a video putting an unhoused Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a New York City train will be charged Friday with second-degree manslaughter, officials said.
Penny, a Marine veteran, will be arraigned in Manhattan criminal court in the May 1 death of Jordan Neely, a subway busker who performed dance routines in costume as Michael Jackson, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Thursday.
According to NBC News, Penny was taken into custody after the incident and released.
In a statement Thursday night, Steven Raiser, a lawyer for Penny, said he stepped in to protect himself and others and had risked “his own life and safety, for the good of his fellow passengers.”
“The unfortunate result was the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr. Neely,” Raiser said. “We are confident that once all the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident are brought to bear, Mr. Penny will be fully absolved of any wrongdoing.”
Penny’s lawyers have previously said that Neely was “aggressively threatening” passengers and Penny never intended to harm him
Juan Alberto Vazquez, who was on the subway, told NBC New York that Neely was being aggressive before he was restrained.
“The man got on the subway car and began to say a somewhat aggressive speech, saying he was hungry, he was thirsty, that he didn’t care about anything, he didn’t care about going to jail, he didn’t care that he gets a big life sentence,” Vazquez said in Spanish. “That it doesn’t even matter if I died.'”
Cellphone video captured on a northbound F train showed Penny on the ground holding Neely in a chokehold after an altercation.
Jordan Neely’s family has rejected Penny’s account
“It is a character assassination and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan‘s life,” said the family’s attorneys, Donte Mills and Lennon Edwards.
Neely, 30, was unconscious when officers arrived at the Broadway and East Houston Street station. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
The city medical examiner’s office said Neely died of “compression of neck (chokehold)” and that the manner was homicide.
NBC News reports Neely was held in the chokehold for about 15 minutes, said Vazquez, who recorded the video. The video showed two other subway riders appearing to help restrain Neely.
New York police previously said officers responded to the subway station after they got a 911 call about a physical fight. An investigation revealed that Neely and Penny had a verbal dispute that “escalated into a physical altercation,” a spokesperson said.
The death of Jordan Neely has sparked vociferous public outcry and protests in the city
“His killing at the hands of a fellow passenger and the responses to this violence that took his life have been not only tragic but difficult to absorb,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said last week. “Racism that continues to permeate throughout our society allows for a level of dehumanization that denies Black people from being recognized as victims when subjected to acts of violence.
In total, at least two dozen people were taken into custody between the most recent protest and one on May 6 that saw throngs jump onto the track bed at the Lexington Avenue station and block the path of a Q train.
“The perceptions of Black people have long been interpreted through a distorted, racialized lens that aims to justify violence against us. It is another example of how far we remain from an equitable and just society,” Adams continued.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters that the video was “horrific” and that the subway riders’ response to Neely was “very extreme.”
Protesters, NYC lawmakers and The White House want answers
The death is compounding existing concerns over race relations in New York, as well as the city’s ongoing struggle to treat mental health issues and curb rising levels of unhoused persons, according to Gothamist.
“We’re calling on the DA to investigate what happened so he can be properly charged and we can seek justice for our brother,” said Councilmember Nantasha Williams, who represents the Queens neighborhoods of Jamaica and Springfield Gardens, at a rally on Thursday outside City Hall. “Justice for Jordan Neely!”
“These are the words of somebody who needed help – not a chokehold,” said Councilmember Kevin C. Riley, who co-chairs the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. “You’re not going to put your hands or your arms around our neck anymore. We’re not standing for this.”
During Thursday’s rally, Councilmember Linda Lee, who represents parts of eastern Queens, called the roadmap “one step” in how the city can respond.
“We have to call out the systemic racism that’s happening, we have to stand together as allies, as a community, and as council-members and leaders and elected officials,” Lee said.
To date, Mayor Eric Adams has not addressed the matter at length. On Wednesday, he spoke at City Hall, saying in part, “his death is a tragedy that never should have happened.”
On Friday, Mr Penny arrived in a black SUV at the 5th Precinct in lower Manhattan just after 8 a.m. local time to give himself up to local police.
His lawyer, Thomas Kenniff, said his client had surrendered voluntarily and with “dignity”.