New York City grand jurors handed down an indictment on Wednesday, charging Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, with second-degree manslaughter in the death of fellow subway rider Jordan Neely. The incident last month has become a contentious issue, stirring discussions on mental health, crime, and race.
Penny and Neely were riding an F train in Manhattan when Neely allegedly began engaging in what witness Juan Alberto described as “somewhat aggressive speech.”
Neely reportedly expressed being hungry, thirsty, and indifferent toward the consequences of his actions.
A bystander captured part of the confrontation on video, which showed Penny restraining Neely in a chokehold on the train’s floor for several minutes.
First responders reached Neely at the Broadway-Lafayette Street/Bleecker Street Station, where he was unconscious.
Despite their efforts, he was pronounced dead at a hospital. The incident sparked outrage against Penny and sympathy for the ex-Marine.
The city’s medical examiner ruled Neely’s cause of death as “compression of the neck (chokehold),” classifying it as a homicide.
According to his family, Neely, who often performed as Michael Jackson, had a history of struggling with mental health. They revealed that he had faced challenges since his mother was murdered in 2007.
In a videotaped statement, Penny, who is White, asserted that he acted to protect himself and fellow passengers during the confrontation with Neely.
He denied that race motivated his actions. “I didn’t see a Black man threatening passengers. I saw a man threatening passengers, he insisted.
The incident has evoked memories of the 1984 shooting of four Black teenagers on a New York City subway by Bernhard Goetz, a White man who believed he was being mugged. Goetz, referred to as “The Subway Vigilante,” was acquitted of attempted murder and assault but was convicted on a weapons charge, resulting in an eight-month prison sentence.
Penny and Neely’s case has reignited debates surrounding mental health, crime, and race in New York City. It serves as a reminder of the complex issues facing the city’s public transportation system and the challenges in ensuring the safety and well-being of passengers.
Stacy M. Brown is the NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent.