Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old man from New York City, was put in a chokehold by another rider on the subway as he experienced an apparent mental health episode on Monday. When police officers arrived, Neely was reportedly unresponsive and was brought to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On Wednesday night, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner declared Neely’s death a homicide. Protests have been taking place around NYC. People are demanding justice and are referring to Neely’s death as a lynching on social media.
As more details about this story continue to emerge, here’s what you need to know now.
Neely was a subway performer known to some New Yorkers as a Michael Jackson impersonator. He was homeless and was reportedly yelling about being hungry, thirsty, and tired aboard a Manhattan F train when he was tackled and put in a chokehold by another rider who has now been identified as Daniel Penny.
Investigators have said that Penny is a 24-year-old former Marine. Neely can be seen on the floor being restrained for several minutes in a four-minute video that has been circulating online.
The video, which was posted by freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, shows a Black man, who later identified as Neely, yelling and pacing in an F train before being stopped by multiple passengers, including a white man who puts his arm around his neck.
According to the New York Police Department, Neely was unconscious when police arrived at the scene, and he died after being taken to a hospital. After the incident, NYPD officers questioned the person who allegedly put Neely in a chokehold and released him. At first, some people praised the former Marine as a good Samaritan, but now many are calling for his arrest.
What Has Been The Response
As many have pointed out, Neely’s death reflects the disproportionate homeless population of BIPOCs in the United States and how they are frequently victims of violence. According to The Coalition For The Homeless, over 80 percent of homeless people in New York are Black or Hispanic, and the large majority of those considered ‘street homeless’ are living with mental illness or other severe health problems.
“This horrific incident is yet another reminder of Governor Hochuls’ and Mayor Adams’ complete failure to provide the critical mental health services desperately needed by so many people in our city,” Dave Giffen, Executive Director with Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement.
“What’s more, the fact that someone who took the life of a distressed, mentally-ill human being on a subway could be set free without facing any consequences is shocking and evidences the City’s callous indifference to the lives of those who are homeless and psychiatrically unwell. This is an absolute travesty that must be investigated immediately,” he added.
Some people have questioned whether Neely’s choking by a white man was racially motivated. Others wanted answers as to why the suspected attacker is still at large.
“Jordan Neely was murdered. But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges,” Rep. Alexandria Occasio-Cortez tweeted. “It’s disgusting.”
A vigil for Neely was held on Wednesday at the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in Manhattan, where the incident took place. He reportedly suffered from mental illness “which began at age 14 when he experienced the brutal murder of his mother,” according to a statement issued by Mills & Edwards LLP, a law firm hired by his family on Thursday.
More protests are expected Friday as pressure mounts on the Manhattan district attorney’s office to file charges in the case.
On Wednesday, Neely’s cause of death was ruled by the City’s chief medical examiner to be “compression of the neck.” His death was determined to be a homicide, “a death caused by another person, and it’s not a ruling on intent or culpability.”
“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 statement from the District Attorney’s office on Wednesday said.
According to New York law, a person may use physical force against another person to defend themselves or others, but they may only use lethal force if they have cause to think that their life may be in danger, The New York Times reports.
Now it’s up to police and prosecutors to determine whether charges should be brought.