Daniel Penny Will Be Charged in Subway Chokehold Killing of Jordan Neely
Jonah E. Bromwich et al., New York Times, May 11, 2023
Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who choked and killed a homeless man on the subway last week, will face a charge of second-degree manslaughter and is expected to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed in a statement that it planned to charge Mr. Penny in the killing of the man, Jordan Neely.
Mr. Penny encountered Mr. Neely, 30, on an F train on May 1 and placed him in a chokehold, killing him. Witnesses told the police that Mr. Neely had been shouting at passengers, but there has been no indication that he physically attacked anyone.
The police interviewed Mr. Penny, but initially released him without charging him. The struggle on the F train was captured in a four-minute video showing Mr. Penny choking Mr. Neely and holding on for an additional 50 seconds after Mr. Neely stopped struggling.
The video set off protests, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office began investigating soon afterward.
Many city leaders, politicians and advocates for New Yorkers struggling with homelessness and mental illness had called for Mr. Penny’s immediate arrest. They said Mr. Neely’s killing highlighted the city’s failure to care for its most vulnerable and marginalized residents.
Other New Yorkers, while stunned by the killing and critical of Mr. Penny’s actions, reflected on their frustrations and fears about the city’s transit system. The number of major felony crimes on the subway has fallen in recent months, though crime rates are higher than they were before the pandemic, when ridership numbers were higher.
Lennon Edwards, a lawyer for Mr. Neely’s family, condemned Mr. Penny’s actions. Mr. Neely “was robbed of his life in a brutal way by someone who decided that they were judge, jury and executioner on the spot,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview. “We can’t have vigilantes, and we can’t have people taking the law into their own hands.”
Left-leaning politicians criticized Mayor Eric Adams for his muted initial response to the killing. But on Wednesday, the mayor gave a speech in which he said Mr. Neely’s “life mattered” and that his death was a “tragedy that never should have happened.”
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Adams said: “I have the utmost faith in the judicial process, and now justice can move forward against Daniel Penny.”
What is publicly known about the events on the F train in the early afternoon of May 1 has been gleaned from two main sources: the video recorded by Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist, and a brief report from the police and the Fire Department. There have also been accounts from witnesses who have come forward in recent days.
Before he began filming, Mr. Vazquez said he was on the northbound train at the Second Avenue station in Lower Manhattan when Mr. Neely boarded and began screaming, saying he was hungry and thirsty, and then taking off his jacket and throwing it on the ground. The people near Mr. Neely moved away, he recalled.
Mr. Vazquez then said he heard a thump and saw Mr. Penny and Mr. Neely together on the floor, but hadn’t seen what had happened before Mr. Penny grabbed Mr. Neely.
Mr. Vazquez’s footage begins after Mr. Penny places Mr. Neely in a chokehold and shows Mr. Neely writhing on the ground, trying to break free from Mr. Penny — who had also wrapped his legs around him — and two other men.
In the days after the video circulated online, many left-leaning politicians and activists said that if Mr. Penny had been Black, he would have been kept in custody.