The New York City subway rider accused of choking a homeless man to death has been identified by his lawyers as a 24-year-old U.S. Marine veteran and college student whom lawyers say “acted to protect themselves” and “never intended harm.”
Daniel James Penny, 24, has been identified by witnesses and police as the man who held 30-year-old Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold following what police say was an altercation on Monday, 1 on a northbound F train.
Penny joined the Marines in 2017 according to his LinkedIn profile and is currently a college student, according to a statement released by his attorneys at Raiser&Kenniff.
Neely was reportedly having a mental episode on the subway route, yelling and pacing back and forth, when Penny interjected, tackled him to the ground and put him in a chokehold, according to witnesses and police.
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“Mr. Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness. 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,” attorneys said. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
Manhattan prosecutors are investigating Neely’s death after the city’s medical examiner determined the Michael Jackson impersonator, who was experiencing homelessness, died from the compression against his neck.
The freelance journalist, who shot the now viral video of the incident, Juan Alberto Vazquez told the New York Post that Neely “started screaming in an aggressive manner” and complaining that he had no food and nothing to drink. The Marine veteran allegedly held Neely in a chokehold for 15 minutes, according to Vazquez.
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His death has been ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner and police have not arrested anyone in connection to the crime.
“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. This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors,” a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.
The incident has sparked protests across the city demanding justice for Neely’s killing with state and local politicians calling for a renewed urgency in addressing the mental health crisis.
“For too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference. 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’s attorneys said in a statement Friday.
The Manhattan DA’s Office is asking anyone who witnessed the fatal encounter or has information about it to call 212-335-9040.
Fox News’ Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.
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