Daniel Penny has been named by his lawyers and the Manhattan District Attorney as the 24-year-old Marine veteran from West Islip, New York, who is accused of putting Michael Jackson impersonator Jordan Neely in a chokehold, killing Neely on May 1, 2023, in New York City.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has now charged Penny with manslaughter in the second degree. You can read more about the charges here.
The lawyers gave the statement to ABC7. Penny’s name was first reported by Daily Mail after it spread widely on social media. Daily Mail reported that it had confirmed Penny’s identity through a Marine Corps spokesman. He also goes by the name Daniel J. Penny and Danny Penny. Penny is from West Islip, New York, on Long Island, according to public records.
A viral video recording the incident, which occurred on the New York subway system, has gone viral. Be forewarned that the video, which you can watch later in this story, is graphic and disturbing.
Neely’s death has sparked protests and calls for charges from prominent New Yorkers. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, tweeted: “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. It’s disgusting.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, told CNN, “It’s still ongoing.” He said “our hearts go out to the family,” calling it a “terrible incident.”
“Now it’s in the hands of the investigators,” Adams said, saying there were “so many unknowns.” He called comments by Comptroller Brad Lander and Ocasio-Cortez irresponsible, saying it was “not the right thing to do” to interfere in the case while it is still being investigated.
Penny’s law firm, Raiser and Kenniff, P.C., issued a statement on his behalf to ABC7.
“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 said. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
The statement continued, “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.” Heavy has reached out to the lawyers for additional details.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Manhattan District Attorney Says the Office Is Assessing Video Footage & Medical Records Before Deciding Whether to Issue Criminal Charges Against Daniel Penny, a Manhattan Bartender Who Was Once Inspired by Don Quixote to Travel Through South America With a Backpack
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating Neely’s death.
“This is a solemn and serious matter that ended in the tragic loss of Jordan Neely’s life. 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,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement emailed to Heavy.
“This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors and we will provide an update when there is additional public information to share. The Manhattan D.A.’s Office encourages anyone who witnessed or has information about this incident to call 212-335-9040.”
The statement does not give Penny’s name, however.
According to a profile on Harri.com in Daniel Penny’s name, he worked as a sales associate for a Surf Shop, as an infantry squad leader and instructor of water survival in the U.S. Marines Corps, and at a local burger restaurant.
In that post, he wrote that he was “adventurous, charismatic, authentic.”
“Growing up here in New York, I have always been inspired by the ambition and grit,” he wrote. “After high school and unsure of my future, I enlisted in the Marine Corps in search of adventure, While serving as squad leader on two deployment, I began to realize what I was passionate about.”
The post continues:
I loved helping, communicating and connecting to different people from all over the world. After the military, I enrolled in college but felt completely unfulfilled. I decided to drop out of school and backpack throughout Central America. This decision was inspired by the novel Don Quixote. Don Quixote so inspired by adventure, he leaves his ‘normal’ life to pursue his dreams despite being called a madman. During the travels I rediscovered my love for interacting and connecting with people. I believe that bartending in Manhattan, the place I’ve always referred to as the center of the world , would be an extremely fulfilling position. Being able to serve and connect with the most interesting and eccentric the world has to offer, is what I believe I am meant to do.
2. Daniel J. Penny Is a Former Marine Who Received 7 Medals & Was a Sergeant at Camp Lejeune, Reports Say
According to Daily Mail, Penny “served in the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division as a sergeant in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, but left the service in June 2021. He had served four years and was the recipient of seven medals.”
Daily Mail reported that Penny “was deployed between December 2017 and July 2019 in the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit across the Mediterranean.”
Other news outlets have also reported that the man in the video was a former Marine who is the age of Penny.
According to CBS News, the man who put Neely in a chokehold is a 24-year-old Marine veteran.
CBS News reported that the man was taken into custody but released without criminal charges. ABC7 reported that, as the 24-year-old man restrained Neely, “he asked fellow passengers to call 911,” according to police. ABC7 described Neely as “harassing” other subway riders.
Andre Zachery, Neely’s father, told The New York Daily News that Neely was interested in Michael Jackson since he was 4 years old, and he was never the same after his mother was murdered in 2007.
3. The Freelance Journalist Who Recorded the Viral Video Says He Believes the Man Named as Daniel Penny ‘Was Trying to Help’
Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist, posted the video, which he recorded, on his Facebook page, “Luces de Nueva York.” He also posted a detailed account of what he saw, writing that Neely yelled, “I don’t have food, I don’t have to drink, I’m fed up… i don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison.. I’m ready to die.”
In the video, the man identified by Daily Mail as Daniel Penny holds Neely in a chokehold while another man holds his arm, and other people stand around watching. At some points in the video, Neely moves his leg. Another man eventually confronts the men and says things like, “once he defecates, you have to let him go.”
According to Vazquez’s Facebook post, Neely “yelled as he removed his robe and aggressively whipped it to the floor of the wagon.”
Vazquez wrote that, although “so far the disturbed did not seem to want to attack anyone, a young man with brown hair and gray shawl grabbed him by the neck and laid him on the floor as he tied him with his legs. They were in that position for about 15 minutes while other passengers and the train operator called the police (as heard in the video). The Uniforms, btw, never arrived.”
According to Vazquez, “other Samaritans stepped in to aid the warrior and prevent the other from escaping. One of them, who had recently tackled with a woman, seemed to mediate between the two fighting on the floor.” He said that he had to be somewhere in Yonkers so “when they released the captive already unarmed I left the scene and stopped filming. At the end you can see how the aggressive man stands idle after the tenacity in his neck in a consequence that reminded me of George Floyd’s. It’s possible that he died in those moments.”
“It was a very tense situation because you don’t know what he’s going to do afterwards,” Vazquez told The New York Times.
He told the Times of the Marine, “I am confused now because I’m not sure how to think about what the young man did. He was trying to help.” He said that at the time, no one thought Neely, 30, might die.
“None of us were thinking that,” he told The Times. “He was moving and he was defending himself.”
A police source told The Daily News that witnesses saw Neely “pacing back and forth and acting erratic, as if he was about to turn violent.”
4. Daniel Penny Was Given an MPV as a High School Lacrosse Player
A 2015 photo shows Daniel Penny receiving an award from Barbara Harcourt, who is described in the caption as “a descendant of Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly.”
The photo caption said she was giving “the MVP award to Daniel Penny of West Islip High School after the 2nd Annual Dan Daly Cup in Uniondale, N.Y., June 24. Team Valor and Team Virtue are made up of the top lacrosse players in Long Island competing to win in honor of two time Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Maj. Daniel Daly.”
Neely’s death comes as concerns about crime in New York City and on the subway system have grown in recent years.
For example, in one previous incident, 10 people were shot during an active shooter incident in the Brooklyn subway, according to Axios. In October 2022, Michelle Go died after being shoved on the subway tracks, according to The New York Times.
However, The New York Times reported that major crimes in the subway system dropped 16% from October 2022 through January 2023.
Reverend Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), said in a news release that Jordan Neely was “the reportedly homeless man” who “experienced a mental health episode on the subway.”
According to Sharpton’s release, “disturbing video shows a passenger put Neely, 30, into a chokehold on an F train Monday until he lost consciousness. Neely, who was a well-known Michael Jackson impersonator on subways and in Times Square, later died at Lenox Hill Hospital. The passenger was taken into custody by police but released Monday night without charges.”
“The National Action Network demands the District Attorney and police investigate this horrific incident as a potential case of manslaughter – if not murder,” Sharpton said in the release. “Thirty years ago, I fought the Bernard Goetz case and we cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable. It wasn’t acceptable then and it cannot be acceptable now. We hope the family of Jordan Neely will come forward so NAN can ensure he is funeralized properly and decently.”
According to Britannica, Goetz was an “American vigilante who rose to national fame when he shot four African American males on a New York City subway train on December 22, 1984.” He was convicted only of criminal possession of a handgun after arguing self-defense, Britannica reported.
Comptroller Brad Lander tweeted, “NYC is not Gotham. We must not become a city where a mentally ill human being can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence. Or where the killer is justified & cheered.”
5. Jordan Neely Died From ‘Compression of Neck,’ the Medical Examiner Ruled
The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner told CBS News that Neely’s cause of death was determined to be “compression of neck” or a “chokehold.” According to CBS News, the death was ruled a “homicide” by the medical examiner’s office.
However, a medical examiner’s determination of homicide is not a determination of criminal homicide. Heavy has reached out to the office of the medical examiner for additional details.
According to the New York Daily News, Neely was arrested 42 times in the past 10 years by the New York Police Department and “had a documented mental health history with police.”
He was most recently arrested in November 2021 on felony assault charges after being accused of “slugging a 67-year-old female stranger in the face,” Daily News reported, adding that a warrant was issued in that case.
The New York Post reported that Neely’s mother was murdered by his stepfather in 2007, sinking him into “deep depression.”
The police repeatedly ran across him over the years, the Post reported that Neely “threatened” a train conductor “and scared passenger” in one incident, was taken to the hospital and shelters in other incidents, asked for psychiatric help because he was hearing voices years ago, and “mentioned that he was schizophrenic, had ADHD and was sometimes suicidal.”
According to The Post, in one instance, Neely was accused of punching a 67-year-old woman, breaking her nose and fracturing her orbital bones. He was incarcerated at Rikers Island until February 9, 2023, for second-degree assault, and there was a warrant issued for his arrest on February 23, according to The Post, which said Neely was once accused of threatening to kill his grandfather.
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