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Daniel Penny’s attorneys say he ‘never intended to harm’ Jordan Neely after fatal chokehold on NYC subway

The 30-year-old homeless street performer was choked to death on New York City subway on 1 May

Alex Woodward
New York
Saturday 06 May 2023 12:47 BST
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Attorneys for Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old former US Marine who was captured on bystander video fatally choking Jordan Neely on a New York City subway train, have released a statement that both confirms his identity and claims that Mr Penny and others “acted to protect themselves” from the homeless street performer.

Mr Penny is represented by attorneys from Raiser and Kenniff.

“Earlier this week Daniel Penny was involved in a tragic incident ... which ended in the death of Jordan Neely. We would first like to express, on behalf of Daniel Penny, our condolences to those close to Mr Neely,” according to a statement shared withThe Independent at 7.30pm on 5 May.

“Mr Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness,” according to attorneys for Mr Penny.

“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. Daniel never intended to harm Mr Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” according to the statement. ”For too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference. 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.”

The Independent and other news outlets confirmed Mr Penny’s identity earlier on 5 May after online sleuths first discovered his name the previous night. Neely’s previous criminal record and family history were widely published across the tabloids and mainstream news outlets.

A spokesperson for the NYPD could not provide comment or identify the person in the video to The Independent; police were not able to disclose a person’s identity unless they are wanted or in custody.

On 3 May, Neely’s death was ruled by the New York medical examiner’s office as a homicide due to compression against his neck. Video footage and eyewitness accounts show a man believed to be Mr Penny with his arm wrapped around Neely for several minutes until his eyes shut and body goes limp.

New York City Police Department officers attempted CPR upon arrival on the F train at the Broadway-Lafayette platform, according to an incident report reviewed by The Independent. Neely was pronounced dead at Lenox Health Greenwich Village hospital.

Widely shared video footage captured by journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez shows a man believed to be Mr Penny and two other men holding Neely to the floor of a train car on 1 May.

Police initially questioned but did not arrest Mr Penny. He has not been charged with a crime.

When he walked into a subway car on 2 May, Neely complained of hunger and thirst, according to Mr Vazquez, who posted a video of part of the incident on his Facebook page.

He wrote that Neely was yelling and said he was tired, didn’t care whether he went to prison, and was ready to die. He said Neely threw his jacket to the floor of the train car before another passenger grabbed him in a headlock. Others grabbed at his arms.

In bystander video from inside the train car, a passenger can be heard warning the man holding Neely in a chokehold.

“You don’t want to catch a murder charge,” a man can be heard saying. “You got a hell of a chokehold, man.”

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