Ex-Marine surrenders to New York authorities to face charge over Jordan Neely death

Daniel Penny, 24, turned himself in to New York police early on Friday morning to be arrested on a second-degree manslaughter charge

Rachel Sharp,Alex Woodward
Friday 12 May 2023 17:02 BST
New York mayor Eric Adams says 'Jordan Neely did not deserve to die'

The former US Marine who held Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a Manhattan subway train earlier this month has surrendered to New York authorities to face criminal charges over his death.

Daniel Penny, 24, turned himself in to New York police early on Friday morning to be arrested on a second-degree manslaughter charge.

He was seen arriving at the NYPD’s 5th Precinct in lower Manhattan just after 8am local time, where he did not respond to any questions from waiting journalists.

He will be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

“Shortly after 8am this morning Daniel Penny surrendered at the 5th Precinct at the request of the New York County DA’s office,” Mr Penny’s attorney Thomas Kenniff told reporter. “He did so voluntarily and with the sort of dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service for this grateful nation.”

When asked how Mr Penny was feeling, he said that the former Marine had “his head held up high”.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office confirmed on Thursday that Mr Penny would be charged with killing Neely, after widespread protests and debate demanded justice and urgent support for mentally ill New Yorkers and people experiencing homelessness.

Daniel Penny surrenders to authorities in New York

Attorneys for Mr Penny said in a statement on Thursday night that they are “confident” he will be “fully absolved of any wrongdoing” when all the “facts and circumstances” come to light as they claimed that the former Marine “risked his own life” when he fatally choked Neely.

“When Mr Penny, a decorated Marine veteran, stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers, his well-being was not assured. He risked his own life and safety, for the good of his fellow passengers,” according to a statement from the firm Raiser and Kenniff shared with The Independent.

On 1 May, a man identified as Mr Penny placed the 30-year-old homeless former street performer in a fatal chokehold for several minutes until he died on the floor of an F train on the Broadway-Lafayette platform in Manhattan. Witnesses have stated that Neely did not physically attack anyone before he was brought to the ground from behind.

Daniel Penny surrenders to authorities in New York

The city’s medical examiner determined Neely’s cause of death was homicide.

Neely – who was experiencing a mental health crisis in the days leading up to his death – was known among social work teams involved in outreach to New York’s homeless community. He had numerous interactions with law enforcement and health responders over the years.

When he walked into the train car, Neely complained of hunger and thirst, according to witnesses and journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, who posted a video of part of the incident on his Facebook page.

Mr Vazquez said Neely threw his jacket to the floor of the train car before another passenger grabbed him from behind in a headlock. Others grabbed at his arms. The widely shared video footage shows Mr Penny and two other men holding Neely to the floor of a train car for several minutes, while Mr Penny grabs Neely in a chokehold.

Another passenger can be heard in the video telling the men that his wife was in the military and warned them that placing Neely in a chokehold could kill him.

Protesters take to the streets of New York calling for justice for Jordan Neely

“You don’t have to catch a murder charge,” he said. “You got a hell of a chokehold, man.”

A statement from attorneys for Mr Penny on 5 May said Mr Penny “was involved in a tragic incident ... which ended in the death of Jordan Neely.”

“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.

Attorneys for Neely’s family said the statement from Mr Penny’s legal team was neither “an apology nor an expression of regret” but “character assassination and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan’s life.”

Neely’s death has sparked widespread demands for support for homeless and mentally ill New Yorkers, as advocates and lawmakers condemned what they characterised as an act of vigilantism in a city that has marginalised and targeted its most vulnerable residents with violence.

Jordan Neely was an accomplished Michael Jackson impersonator

Within the week after his death, NYPD officers have arrested at least 24 people – including a photojournalist, targeted by a high-ranking police official – at protests and vigils demanding an arrest.

In his remarks on 10 May, more than one week after Neely’s death, Mayor Eric Adams did not mention how Neely died or discuss the events surrounding his death, but issued his strongest statements yet in the wake of the incident, in contrast to his initial remarks in its aftermath.

“Jordan Neely did not deserve to die,” he said. “A New Yorker who struggled with tragedy, trauma and mental illness, a man whose last words were crying for help.”

Mr Adams outlined his administration’s response to people experiencing homelessness and mental health distress, including legislation proposed to lawmakers in Albany, the creation of outreach teams, and a controversial policy that allows authorities to involuntarily hospitalise people who are considered too mentally ill to care for themselves.

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