The New York City subway passenger charged in the strangulation death of a homeless man is a US Navy veteran who was acting to protect himself and other passengers and never meant to harm, their attorneys said Friday night.
Daniel J. Penny, 24, has been identified by authorities as the man who allegedly strangled Jordan Neely after what police said was an altercation Monday on a northbound F train, according to two law enforcement officers. familiar with the investigation.
«When Mr. Neely began to aggressively threaten Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect himself, until help arrived,» Penny’s attorneys said in a statement late Friday. «Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and he could not have foreseen his untimely death.»
Neely, 30, was unconscious when police arrived at the Broadway and East Houston Street subway station and was pronounced dead at a hospital, New York police said.
He died of «neck compression (strangulation)» and the manner was a homicide, the city’s chief medical examiner’s office said. Penny was detained Monday, questioned by police and released. No charges have been filed against her.
Lawmakers and others questioned why law enforcement authorities did not hold him longer.
On Friday, two sources familiar with the matter said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is expected to bring the case before a grand jury to consider possible charges. It was unclear when the charges might materialize or when the case would be closed without prosecution.
Penny’s attorneys said Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing, untreated mental illness.
“For too long, those with mental illness have been treated with indifference,” the law firm of Raiser and Kenniff said in its statement on Penny’s behalf. «We hope that out of this terrible tragedy will come a new commitment from our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways.»
The incident, captured in part on cellphone video, has sparked a national debate, with people denouncing vigilantism and some politicians demanding that officials do more to address homelessness, mental health and violence on trains. underground. Neely, a subway busker who performed dance routines dressed as Michael Jackson, suffered from mental illness, attorneys for his family said.
Who is Daniel Penny?
Penny graduated from West Islip High School on Long Island, New York, in 2016, a district spokesperson said Friday without releasing additional details.
He served in the Marine Corps between June 2017 and June 2021 with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 2nd Marine Division, according to a spokesperson. He rose to the rank of sergeant and his last duty assignment was at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Penny received 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.
In a statement, a Marine Corps spokesman said the service branch was aware of what happened on the train and would «cooperate with agencies investigating this incident if asked.»
But he added that the Marine Corps could not confirm that a former service member was involved in the incident, saying it was «simply confirming that a person by the name that you have presented to us has served in the Marine Corps.»
After the Army, Penny enrolled in college but dropped out because he felt «completely dissatisfied» and instead backpacked through Central America, according to his profile on Harri, a recruiting and workforce management platform for the hospitality industry. . He was looking for work as a bartender in Manhattan, the profile says.
More on the strangulation death of Jordan Neely
Multiple calls to 911
A police spokesman said officers were called to the station after receiving a 911 call about a physical fight.
«Further investigation revealed that the 30-year-old man was involved in a verbal dispute with the 24-year-old man and it escalated into a physical altercation,» the spokesperson said in a phone call earlier this week. «During the physical struggle between the two men, the 30-year-old man lost consciousness.»
Two sources familiar with the matter say there were at least five 911 calls about the incident, including initial reports of a homeless man who some considered threatening in his gestures and volume.
Juan Alberto Vázquez was on the train and partially captured the altercation with his cell phone. The widely viewed video does not show what happened before the strangling.
He said NBC New York that Neely got on the train and “started making this kind of aggressive speech, saying he was hungry, he was thirsty, he didn’t care, he didn’t care about going to jail, he didn’t care about that he gets a big life sentence «.
Some witnesses said that Neely allegedly acted very aggressively towards other bicyclists and threatened to harm them, the news station reported. Vazquez said Neely was in the choke position for about 15 minutes.
A law firm retained by Neely’s family said she suffered from mental illness «that began at the age of 14 when she experienced the brutal murder of her mother.»
His mother, Christine Neely, was murdered in 2007, stuffed inside a suitcase and abandoned on Henry Hudson Parkway in New York. NJ.com reported. Her boyfriend, Shawn Southerland, was convicted in a trial in which Neely, then 18, testified. He told the court that he tried to say goodbye to his mother before going to school on April 4, 2007, but Southerland refused to let him into the bedroom. . Neely said later that day that Southerland packed up and left, according to the news outlet. Southerland was sentenced to 30 years in prison.