NEW YORK (PIX11) — Dozens of protesters gathered Friday evening in Washington Square Park.
They want to re-calibrate the discussion away from Jordan Neely’s background to focus on Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old who was caught on video putting Neely in a fatal chokehold on the subway earlier this week.
“I’m tired of seeing those with mental health challenges being stigmatized,” said Eddie of Socialist Alternatives.
“People are looking at this white person who was not in any danger, who literally put someone in a chokehold for 15 minutes straight, as a hero,” said Kerbie Joseph, with the group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition.
The New York law firm of Raiser & Kennif released a statement Friday evening confirming the identity of Penny — a 24-year-old ex-marine — who put Neely in the chokehold, saying in part:
“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. Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
Neely was reportedly acting erratically, but there is no evidence or any witness statements indicating he was physically violent.
On Friday, PIX11 News spoke off camera with Neely’s father, and on camera with his godfather.
“This individual seems like he’s a vigilante now,” said Neely’s godfather Barry Knibbs.
The NYPD questioned and then released Penny, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is reportedly preparing to present the case to a grand jury.
There were several witnesses on board the train, including one who shouted out to Penny as held Neely in a chokehold: “You gotta let him go. My wife is ex-military. You gonna kill him now…I’m tellin’ you,” the witness can be heard saying in the video.
Criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Bernarda Villalona said it’s not surprising that Penny’s attorneys would cite self-defense “of others.” She said witness statements could play a large role in whether a grand jury decides to indict.
“Was it objectively reasonable for this man to place his arms around the neck of Mr. Neely? What was Mr. Neely doing? Was he a reasonable threat of physical injury? Was it necessary at the time? Was it an imminent threat? Because we’re not talking about seconds – we’re talking about minutes,” said Villalona.