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Manhattan DA Likely To Convene Grand Jury For Fatal Chokehold After Protests Shut Down Subway

New York, NY – Prosecutors may convene a grand jury next week to consider charges against the veteran who put an agitated homeless man in a fatal chokehold last week after protests disrupted the subway system and prevented commuters from getting to work.

Law enforcement sources told the New York Post that a Manhattan grand jury could see evidence in the case as early as next week.

The incident occurred on May 1 on a New York City Subway F Train in Manhattan after 30-year-old Jordan Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator, started pacing and yelling, WABC reported.

Witnesses told CNN that Neely was behaving erratically and ranting about being “fed up and hungry” and “tired of having nothing.”

Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist who was on the subway train, said that Neely took off his coat, threw it on the floor of the train, and announced that he was ready to go to jail and get a life sentence.

Vazquez said most passengers started moving away from Neely but after the angry man started throwing things at other passengers, three people stepped up to restrain him, CNN reported.

He said one passenger approached Neely from behind and put him in a choke hold while two others helped take him down.

Vazquez said he started filming the incident a few minutes after it started.

The video showed Neely on the floor of the train car with another passenger’s arm around his neck, holding him down.

Vazquez said that after a while he observed that Neely had stopped talking and moving, CNN reported.

The video showed that Neely was held around the neck for two minutes and 55 seconds, BBC News reported.

New York Police Department (NYPD) officers responded to the downtown Manhattan subway station at about 2:30 p.m. and found Neely unconscious.

He was transported to Lenox Hill Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to CNN.

Law enforcement sources said Neely had been arrested 42 times in New York City on charges that included petit larceny, jumping subway turnstiles, theft, and three unprovoked assaults on women in the subway between 2019 and 2021.

The man who put Neely in the chokehold has been identified as 24-year-old former U.S. Marine Daniel Penny, NBC News reported.

Penny was interviewed by police at the scene and released, sparking outrage from activists who want the veteran to be arrested and charged.

The veteran served in the U.S. Marine Corps from June of 2017 to June of 2021 in the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and 2nd Marine Division, and rose to the rank of sergeant, NBC News reported.

Penny’s last duty assignment was at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

During his service to the United States, Penny was awarded two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons and five medals, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to a military spokesperson.

Attorneys for Penny released a statement on May 5 that said their client had not been trying to kill Neely, NBC News reported.

“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,” the statement read. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”

The attorneys pointed to Neely’s documented history of violent and erratic behavior and apparent ongoing and untreated mental illness, NBC News reported.

“For too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference,” Penny’s lawyers’ statement read. “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.”

Sources told NBC News on May 5 that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was expected to present the case to a grand jury soon.

Critics are concerned that protesters wreaking havoc in the New York Subway over the weekend were pressuring authorities to move too fast for a thorough investigation and pointed to Neely’s extensive criminal history.

Neely’s family called the statement from Penny’s attorneys an admission of guilt, WABC reported.

“Daniel Penny’s press release is not an apology nor an expression of regret,” the statement read. “It is a character assassination and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan’s life. In the first paragraph, he talks about how ‘good’ he is and the next paragraph he talks about how ‘bad’ Jordan was in an effort to convince us Jordan’s life was ‘worthless.’”

“The truth is, he knew nothing about Jordan’s history when he intentionally wrapped his arms around Jordan’s neck, and squeezed and kept squeezing. In the last paragraph, Daniel Penny suggests that the general public has shown ‘indifference’ for people like Jordan, but that term is more appropriately used to describe himself. It is clear he is the one who acted with indifference, both at the time he killed Jordan and now in his first public message,” the statement continued.

Neely’s family complained that Penny “never attempted to help him at all. In short, his actions on the train, and now his words, show why he needs to be in prison,” WABC reported.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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