Amid growing outrage over the vigilante New York City subway killing of an unarmed Black man, the person who choked him to death and his accomplices have emerged from the weekend without any criminal charges for their deadly actions.
Exactly one week ago, Jordan Neely, 30, was in the throes of a mental health crisis and yelling to passengers aboard an F-line subway train that he was hungry and, according to reports, claimed that he didn’t care about any potential consequences as a result.
An eyewitness says that’s when Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old member of the U.S. Marines, came up behind Neely and placed him in a sprawling chokehold for at least 15 minutes, squeezing the life out of the homeless man who witnesses claim was not being violent or threatening. At least two other men helped Penny restrain Neely. First responders couldn’t revive Neely and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.
Police arrested Penny the same day but quickly released him without any criminal charges. Now, it appears that the prospects for Penny to be charged with any crime related to what a medical examiner ruled was a homicide are few and far in between.
To be sure, the NYPD has taken swifter action against people protesting the lack of accountability in the killing than it has against the very person who literally took the law into his own hands and decided the only point of recourse for Neely’s actions was to choke him to death.
At least 13 people were arrested over the weekend for participating in a protest at a subway station by standing on the train tracks and disrupting the public transit system. The Gothamist reported that those arrested were hit with various criminal charges, including resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, assault, trespassing and unlawful interference of a railroad train.
Those arrests came after video footage recorded at a protest on Wednesday showed NYPD appearing to arrest others for demanding justice for a person who was choked to death by a man who lacks any law enforcement authority.
But somehow, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD don’t have the same energy for a man who committed a brazen killing of an unarmed man in public that prompted the protests in the first place.
Penny’s attorneys spoke out on Friday night in an apparent preemptive attempt to provide a narrative that stands in stark contrast to what eyewitnesses and video footage from the incident have respectively said and shown.
“Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers,” Penny’s lawyers said in a statement before suggesting he was acting to protect himself and folks on the train. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the statement added.
The statement from Penny’s lawyers was clear: They are describing him as the victim, not the person who was choked to death.
It was a telling response from a city with a Black mayor, a Black police commissioner and a Black district attorney, none of them have given any indication that Penny’s re-arrest and criminal charges are imminent.
In fact, it’s been quite the opposite as both Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg have remained tight-lipped about the alleged investigation that has supposedly been underway for a week now without any real results.
Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams decided to deflect from the notion of Penny having any culpability in the chokehold homicide by blasting local elected officials who have called the killing “murder.”
Adams suggested that those referring to Neely’s homicide as a murder were irresponsible and jumping to conclusions.
Adams, a former longtime police officer who’s made no secret of his unwavering allegiance to the NYPD, appeared on CNN more than an hour after the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner determined on Wednesday night that Neely’s homicide was caused by “compression of neck” or a “chokehold.”
Adams lashed out at those who have said Neely was murdered and criticized the heroic treatment of the homicidal vigilante in local media. Adams specifically referred to New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who called the incident “a public murder” — and state City Comptroller Brad Lander — who tweeted the definition of “vigilantism” in response to the killing.
“Both the congresswoman and the comptroller, the comptroller’s a citywide leader and I don’t think that’s very responsible at the time where we are still investigating the situation,” Adams told Abby Phillip on CNN Primetime.
Adams said he wanted to have “the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do and I’m going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine exactly what happened here.”
Adams deflected when Phillip suggested the lenient reaction from law enforcement could set a dangerous precedent for subway passengers moving forward.
“We have so many cases where passengers assist other riders. And we don’t know exactly what happened here,” Adams said. “And so we cannot just blatantly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that, and we should allow the investigation to take its course.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said it was investigating the case.
“As part of our rigorous ongoing investigation, we will review the Medical Examiner’s report, assess all available video and photo footage, identify and interview as many witnesses as possible, and obtain additional medical records,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday. “This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors and we will provide an update when there is additional public information to share.”
But one week later, Penny remains free without being held accountable for the very preventable death he caused.
This is America.
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