In a remarkable twist, manslaughter charges against a young Black man who fatally stabbed a subway passenger in alleged self-defense have been abruptly dropped.
Jordan Williams, 20, was arrested last week and charged with manslaughter in the stabbing death of a homeless man. Devictor Ouedraogo, 36, reportedly assaulted Williams’ girlfriend on the J train before Williams defended her to the death on June 13.
It was apparently in that context that a grand jury declined to return an indictment against Williams, prompting the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to drop the charges, ABC 7 News reported.
“Our office conducted an impartial and thorough investigation of this tragic case, which included review of multiple videos and interviews with all available witnesses, and that evidence was fairly presented to a grand jury,” a spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Today, the charges against Jordan Williams have been dismissed.”
ABC 7 News reported that New York law states “a person is justified in using deadly physical force when they reasonably believe it is necessary to use such force to defend themselves or others from imminent use of deadly or unlawful physical force.”
The charges were dropped amid fallout over another New York City subway killing that bears many similarities to — and some notable differences from — Williams’ case.
Hours before Williams learned charges were dropped on Wednesday, Daniel Penny, 24, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges for the killing of Jordan Neely, 30, on an F train on May 1.
Penny, a former Marine who is white, is accused of coming up from behind Neely, who is Black, and placing him in a lethal chokehold for the perceived threat of menacing passengers. Unlike the allegations of assault that prompted Williams to fatally confront Ouedraogo, Neely — who was in the throes of a mental health crisis and yelled at passengers that he was hungry and didn’t care if he died or went to jail — was never accused of being violent before his death.
Unlike Penny, Williams was promptly arrested for the stabbing, including a perp walk for the media.
Penny, on the other hand, was quickly released from custody hours after he choked Neely to death and afforded the privilege to get his personal and legal affairs in order before his lawyers orchestrated his surrender to law enforcement on their own terms nearly two full weeks later.
Wednesday was the second time this week that charges against a Black person accused of a self-defense killing had their charges dropped.
In Chicago, Carlishia Hood and her 14-year-old son had murder charges against them dropped after the Cook County District Attorney’s Office determined that they acted out of self-defense in the shooting death of Jeremy Brown, who was shown on video beating Hood before her son defended her to the death on June 18.
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