Daniel Penny surrenders to police to face manslaughter charge in Jordan Neely subway chokehold death

A man seen on video putting another man in a deadly chokehold on a New York City subway train turned himself in Friday morning to face criminal charges, his lawyer said. Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old Marine veteran, is being charged with second degree manslaughter, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Thursday.

Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old former Michael Jackson impersonator who was homeless, died after being put in a chokehold by Penny earlier this month.

Penny surrendered to New York City police officers shortly after 8 a.m. Friday, according to his lawyer, Thomas Kenniff. The attorney expected his client to be arraigned Friday afternoon.

U.S. Marine veteran Daniel Penny arrives at a New York City police precinct to surrender in the death of Jordan Neely, a man whose death has been ruled a homicide by the city's medical examiner after Penny placed him in a chokehold on a subway train, in N
Daniel Penny arrives at a New York City police precinct on May 12, 2023, to surrender in the death of Jordan Neely, a man whose death has been ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner after Penny placed him in a chokehold on a subway train.

Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Jordan Neely’s cause of death

A video lasting nearly 3 minutes shows Penny on the floor of a subway car with Neely in a chokehold on May 1. Penny was initially questioned by police and released without being charged.  

The New York City medical examiner’s office determined that Neely died from a chokehold and ruled his death a homicide.

Witnesses told police Neely had been begging for food and acting erratically on the F-line train before Penny intervened. According to witnesses, Neely was screaming about being hungry and tired but didn’t attack anyone.

Daniel Penny’s attorneys’ statement

After charges were announced Thursday, Penny’s attorneys said he “stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers.”

“We are confident that once all the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident are brought to bear, Mr. Penny will be fully absolved of any wrongdoing,” Kenniff and fellow attorney Steven Raiser said in a statement.

Last week, the attorneys said Neely was “aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and other passengers,” and that Penny and others “acted to protect themselves.”

“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the attorneys said.

Neely’s family said in response that the statement by Penny’s attorney amounts to an “admission of guilt,” and that “his actions on the train, and now his words, show why he needs to be in prison.”

Neely’s family attorney declined to comment on the charges Thursday, but was expected to speak to the media Friday morning, CBS News New York reported.

The case sparked days of protests by demonstrators calling for justice for Neely.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a city elected official, joined the calls for charges against Penny ahead of Thursday’s announcement.

“Jordan Neely was unjustly killed, and charges must be immediately brought against the person who killed him,” Williams told reporters this week. “To say anything else is an equivocation that will only further a narrative that devalues the life of a Black homeless man with mental health challenges and encourages an attitude of dehumanization of New Yorkers in greatest need.”

City Comptroller Brad Lander said mental health services need to be more widely available to New Yorkers. “New York City is not Gotham,” Lander told reporters. “We can’t be a city where you can choke someone to death who’s experiencing a mental health crisis.”

New York Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged that Neely’s death “devastated his family and shocked his fellow New Yorkers.” Adams also urged people not to rush to judgment.

“One thing we can say for sure: Jordan Neely did not deserve to die,” Adams said Wednesday during an address at City Hall, “and all of us must work together to do more for our brothers and sisters struggling with serious mental illness.”

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