A screen grab from a video posted on Friday, May 5, 2023, shows Marine veteran Daniel Penny restraining Jordan Neely with a chokehold on a NYC subway train.

A screen grab from a video posted on Friday, May 5, 2023, shows Marine veteran Daniel Penny restraining Jordan Neely with a chokehold on a NYC subway train. (YouTube)

A former Marine involved in the death of a homeless subway rider in New York City this week said he did intervene and subdue the erratic-behaving man with a chokehold but never intended to harm him.

The death of Jordan Neely on a subway train in the NoHo section of Manhattan on Monday has drawn emotional reactions from many people. Some have praised Marine veteran Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old white man, for stepping forward to subdue Neely, a 30-year-old Black man. Others have condemned the veteran for being too aggressive and persisting with the chokehold for more than 10 minutes.

“Earlier this week, Daniel Penny was involved in a tragic incident on the NYC subway, which ended in the death of Jordan Neely,” New York City-based attorneys Steven Raiser and Thomas Kenniff, who are representing Penny, said in a statement Friday. “We would first like to express, on behalf of Daniel Penny, our condolences to those close to Mr. Neely.”

Police said they received several 911 calls about the incident and emergency medical workers immediately attempted to revive Neely. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and a medical examiner formally ruled the death a homicide.

“Mr. Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness,” Penny’s attorneys said. “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.”

Neely was known on the streets of New York City to make money occasionally as a Michael Jackson impersonator. On Monday, he’d been acting erratic on the F train and making statements and movements that might have been aggressive, according to witnesses and news reports.

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

Penny was initially detained by police and questioned about the confrontation but released without being charged. The encounter was recorded on video, and New York City police have said they are still reviewing the footage. Penny still could face criminal charges in the case.

“The New York City Police Department’s first priority is always to seek justice,” police said. “As part of the ongoing investigation into this tragic incident, NYPD detectives are actively reviewing footage and all other available information.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he is waiting for the police investigation to finish before he offers an opinion on the incident. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was more critical.

“I’m really pleased that the district attorney is looking into this matter,” Hochul said Thursday at a news conference. “There [has] to be consequences, and so we’ll see how this unfolds. But his family deserves justice.”

Penny joined the Marine Corps in 2017 and served until June 2021, according to his service record provided by the Marine Corps. After that point, he entered the Marines’ Individual Ready Reserve with the rank of sergeant.

For his first two years of active service, Penny was part of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Mediterranean and his last duty assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Penny earned several awards during his initial four-year stint with the Marines, including a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

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