The U.S. Marine Corps veteran who choked an unhoused man to death on the New York City subway this past week has been identified as Daniel Penny of West Islip, New York.
Penny killed Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man on May 1 aboard a forward car of New York City’s F Train. The New York City medical examiner ruled that Neely’s death was a homicide caused by compression of the neck.
The 24-year-old Penny served in the Marine Corps from 2017 to 2021, assigned as a rifleman to Camp Lejeune, per his public records. The Washington Post reports that he deployed to the Mediterranean with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and left the service with the rank of sergeant. He is currently a college student, per his attorneys.
Witnesses reported that mid-afternoon on May 1, Neely got onboard the train car and began screaming that he needed food and water. He was acting aggressively, but no witness has reported him physically attacking anyone. It was unclear what Neely was going to do, per Juan Alberto Vazquez, an independent journalist who witnessed the killing, but he was shouting, “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up.”
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At some point, Penny grabbed Neely and put him in a chokehold, which witnesses reported lasted for as long as 15 minutes. Video and photos taken of the incident show Penny choking Neely while two other unidentified people hold down the latter’s arms. Footage taken by Vazquez does not show what led to Penny attacking Neely. Penny’s attorneys said that Neely was threatening passengers. Vazquez’s footage shows three minutes of the chokehold.
“No one on the car was telling the Marine to stop,” one witness, who preferred to be unnamed, told local news outlet Hell Gate.
Penny was questioned by police after Neely’s death but was released. He has not been arrested or charged since the incident.
Penny’s lawyers released a statement on the incident on Friday, May 5, stating that, “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
Witnesses told Hell Gate that when Penny released his grip on Neely, the latter “coughed up blood and mucus.” One said that he tried to revive Neely with water, but Penny waved him away. Neely was taken to a hospital but pronounced dead.
Neely was known to subway riders for his Michael Jackson impersonations. More than 70,000 people are unhoused in New York City, with approximately 3,400 of those people unsheltered, per city numbers.
The New York Police Department and Manhattan District Attorney’s office are investigating the homicide and said Penny could face charges for it.
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