Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old ex-Marine, is defending his actions after placing Jordan Neely in a chokehold that led to his death. In a statement released by his lawyers, Penny said that he and other passengers were acting in self-defense against Neely’s aggressive behavior. Neely was a 30-year-old homeless Michael Jackson impersonator, who had a history of violent and erratic behavior attributed to untreated mental illness. No charges have been filed yet in the case, as the Manhattan prosecutor and police are currently deciding whether to press charges. Protesters have called for an arrest to be made.
The case highlights the issue of crime and homelessness in public transportation. The incident happened on Monday afternoon on the F-line train in the SoHo section of Manhattan. A video captured by a freelance journalist on the train shows the former Marine holding Neely – who was said to have been acting erratically – around the neck for two minutes and 55 seconds. Two other passengers are also seen restraining Neely’s arms. All three later let go of him, who is then seen lying motionless on the floor.
The statement by Penny’s lawyers went on to say that they hoped “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.” Meanwhile, the grand jury will probably meet next week to determine whether there is enough evidence to press charges. If charges are brought, Penny will likely argue that his reaction was justified to defend himself.
The incident has sparked protests calling for an arrest to be made in the wake of the chokehold death. As of the moment, prosecutors must prove that Penny used deadly force without believing that Neely was also prepared to use deadly force. Homicide means a death caused by another person, but it is not necessarily a murder.