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Jordan Neely's deteriorating mental health became public after his mother was strangled. Daniel Penny said that he was protecting himself and others when he strangled Mr. Neely.
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Conmiguel wilsonIAndy'ego Newmana
It was Monday afternoon, and a 30-year-old man went crazy on the F train through Manhattan. He was a regular subway worker, once a talented Michael Jackson impersonator, but he was also restless. City officials have been trying to help him for years.
Also riding in the same car was a 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran. After the army, he dropped out of college and posted online that he felt "completely dissatisfied" and that he was now looking for a job as a bartender in the city.
The unstable man, Jordan Neely, was homeless. He was yelling at others on the train that he was hungry, that he didn't care to go back to prison, that he was ready to die, witnesses testified.
It's unclear what exactly happened in the next few minutes, but eventually veteran Daniel J. Penny gave Mr. Neely a chokehold, similar to what he'd been taught in basic training, but with one big difference, and took him to the floor. .the ground in a brawl that lasted several minutes, took the life of Mr. Neely and sparked outrage throughout the city.
Their meeting, recorded by another passenger, once again revealed deep divisions in how New Yorkers and Americans outside of New York view race, homelessness, crime and how some people seem to be treated differently from the police. The veteran, Mr. Penny, who is white, was questioned by police but was not charged with the murder of Mr. Neely, who was black.
Was he a citizen trying to prevent someone from harming others? Or perhaps an overreaction to a New York encounter with a mentally ill person?
As investigators investigate the moments leading up to Mr. Neely's death, friends and family discuss the slain man's cheerful and upbeat demeanor as he struggled after his mother was murdered as a teenager. Recently, he seemed to be in the grip of serious mental illness and had occasional violent outbursts.
Less is known about Mr. Penny, who has spent most of the last few years away from New York.
On Friday, Penny's attorneys, Steven M. Raiser and Thomas A. Kenniff, released a statement. "When Mr. Neely began to aggressively threaten Daniel Penny and other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect himself until help arrived," he said. "Daniel never intended to hurt Mr. Neely and he could not have foreseen his untimely death."
Mr. Neely's childhood was cut short when he was 14 years old. He lived with his mother, Christie Neely, and his boyfriend in an apartment in Bayonne, NJ (visited earlier this week, his father declined to comment).
In 2007, Ms. Neely disappeared. Her body was found stuffed in a suitcase in the Bronx.
He was strangled. His boyfriend was accused of murder.
"The relationship was crazy," Neely testified at the boy's trial when he was 19. "An argument every day."
Mr. Neely attended Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, where his classmates were aware of his loss. Perhaps to avoid talking about a painful experience, he turned to his childhood crush on Michael Jackson, who by then had become a great emulation.
"Everybody called him Michael Jackson," said Wilson Leon, 30, a classmate. "Washington Irving's Michael Jackson".
"He would be very passionate about dancing," said Mr. León, "very good attitude towards the teachers."
But Neely quit, her family announced this week. In recent years, she has appeared on social media playing a highly choreographed impersonation of Jackson on the subway, dressed as the artist in his prime.
Mr. León came across performances by an old friend, "sometimes on 42nd Street, sometimes on the L train," he said. "We'd like to say hello."
But Mr. Neely had others watch him, concerned for his safety.
He has been well known for years in social work groups that reach out to the homeless on the subway and has had hundreds of meetings with them, according to an employee of the Bowery Residents Committee, a nonprofit organization that runs the city subway.
Neely was on what the NGO calls the "Top 50" list, a city-run list of homeless people authorities say are most in need of help and treatment. He was taken to hospitals several times, voluntarily and involuntarily, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release his history.
Mr. Neely has made over three dozen arrests. Many of them were the type that street people often end up homeless, like jumping a Ferris wheel or trespassing. But at least four were accused of beating people up, two of them on the subway.
Social workers noticed that Mr. Neely was using a lot of K2, a powerful and unpredictable synthetic marijuana. In June 2019, a social worker noticed that Mr. Neely had lost a lot of weight and was sleeping upright. According to the secretary's report, it was then that he knocked on the agent's door and threatened to kill her. He then he left.
At some point, Mr. Neely became a client of the Mobile Intensive Care team, one of themdepartments of mental health professionals caring for people on the streets and in shelters. In March 2020, the group transported Mr. Neely to Bellevue Hospital, where he was held for a week, according to homeless records. It was unclear what contact the team had with him afterwards.
Police said Neely's rampage peaked in November 2021 when he punched a 67-year-old woman on a Lower East Side street. According to court documents, the woman suffered serious facial injuries, including a broken nose. He was charged with assault and spent 15 months in prison while awaiting a ruling, police said, though his family claimed the sentence was less.
He pleaded guilty on February 9 of this year as part of a carefully planned strategy between the city and his lawyers to allow him to receive treatment and avoid jail time.
"Do you know what the goal is today?" asked Judge Ellen M. Biben at the hearing.
"Yes," replied Mr. Neely.
"What cell is this?"
"To get physically and mentally into the program."
He had to leave court, live in a treatment center in the Bronx, and stay clean for 15 months. In exchange, his felony sentence would be reduced. He promised to take medicine and avoid drugs and not leave the center without permission.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference, and we are excited to give it to you," said Mary Weisgerber, the district attorney.
"Thank you very much," Mr. Neely replied.
But only 13 days later he left the premises. Judge Bibben issued a warrant for his arrest.
In March, a social worker saw him on the subway, neatly dressed, calm and collected, and took him to a shelter in the Bronx. (Social workers do not typically seek warrants when interacting with the homeless.) But there was a downward spiral.
On April 8, when aid workers approached him in a subway car at the end of the line at Coney Island, Neely urinated in front of them. When the social worker went to call the police, according to her notes, Mr. Neely yelled, "Wait till they arrive, I have something for them, wait and see."
The officers arrived and threw Mr. Neely off the train, apparently ignoring the arrest warrant.
The social worker noted that he was aggressive and inconsistent. "He may harm others or himself if left untreated," the official wrote.
Three weeks later, he took the F train to SoHo for the last time.
Less is known about Mr. Penny, six years out of high school, four of which were spent in the Marine Corps. He attended his high schoolWest Islip, on the south shore of Long Island, and played lacrosseGothamist News reported. In the Army, according to his military records, he received several ribbons and decorations common to peacetime activities and was promoted to sergeant before leaving active duty in 2021.
A person named Danny Penny with identical military experience posted on Harri.com, a website for job seekers in the hospitality industry, that he tried college, "felt completely dissatisfied" and "decided to drop out and travel to Central America." .
He worked for several months, until last May, at a North Carolina surf shop near the Marine Corps base where he was last stationed, Camp Lejeune.
"He loves anything surf-related," said Sam Santaniello, 19, who worked at the store with Mr. Penny. "He is a man for the people. He is a very laid back person. He doesn't bother him too much.
Mr. Penny wrote on a hotel doorstep that he dreamed of working as a bartender in Manhattan.
"While traveling, I rediscovered my love for interacting and connecting with people," she wrote. "To be able to serve and connect with the most interesting and quirky people the world has to offer is my destiny."
There will be more details detailing the moments leading up to the suffocation on the train. But one thing seems clear: The maneuver looked like one Mr. Penny must have picked up in the Marine Corps.
"These choke techniques, if used correctly, are a quick and sure way to take down an enemy," said Sgt.marines website.
The new Marines are trained to use the "blood choke," which, when done correctly, cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain in just eight seconds. However, in the event of bleeding, it is imperative not to compress the person's trachea, which can lead to injury or worse, according to training records.
On the F train on May 1, Juan Alberto Vázquez, a freelance journalist, began recording a video after Mr. Penny handcuffed Neely. He later said Neely was yelling that he was hungry and that he wasn't afraid to die, but it's not clear if he physically threatened anyone. It is also unclear whether Mr. Neely and Mr. Penny had been in contact prior to the encounter, but Mr. Penny and the other passengers on the train would not have known of Mr. Neely's arrest history.
Mr. Penny stayed with Mr. Neely. The immobilized man punched and kicked for at least two minutes before running out of steam. Two men hovered over the action, helping to track down Mr. Neely.
"You don't need to be charged with murder," says another passenger in the video. “You have one hell of a grip, man.
It is unknown if Mr. Penny tried to drown himself in the blood he learned several years before. The time when Mr. Neely should have passed out, after about eight seconds, was gone.
A witness, Johnny Grima, said he entered the subway car while Mr. Penny was still strangling Mr. Neely, but after Mr. Neely stopped moving. "When they released him, Jordan's eyes were open, he was staring into space and he was limping," said Grima, 38.previously homelesswho lives in the Bronx and has never met Mr. Neely.
In the video, as Mr. Penny is released and he stands up, Mr. Grima can be heard saying, “But don't put him on his back mate, he might choke on the slime if you put him on his back. put it on his side.
One of the men holding Mr. Neely complies with the request by moving Mr. Neely aside. As he does so, Mr. Penny pulls a baseball cap from under his subway seat, which apparently fell off during the fight, and puts it back on.
Six hundred miles away, Mr. Penny's surfer friend, Mr. Santianello, watched the video as did many other people. He could only guess at Mr. Penny's mentality: "Knowing Danny and knowing his intentions, it was to help those around him."
Subway passengers and transit workers called for help. Paramedics took Neely to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Jonah E. Bromwich, Maria Cramer Chelsea Rose Marcius, Hurubie Meko, and Dave Philipps wrote a report.
An amendment was tabled on
7 May 2023 r
In an earlier version of this article, the date of Jordan Neely's meeting with Metro aid workers was incorrect. This was April 8th, not April 9th.
An amendment was tabled on
May 12, 2023 r
An earlier version of this article misrepresented the date of Mr. Neely's last meeting with Metro social workers. He was being watched on April 8, not even a week later.
How we deal with corrections
Michael Wilson is a reporter in the Metro bureau and has written extensively about New York City, its culture and crime. @mvilsont
Andy Newman writes about social services and poverty in and around New York City. He has covered the region for the Times for 25 years. @no local
A version of this article appears in print., Unit
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