Ex-Marine defends New York subway chokehold that killed homeless man

Protesters gather for a "Justice for Jordan Neely" rally in Washington Square Park (Getty Images)
Protesters gather for a "Justice for Jordan Neely" rally in Washington Square Park (Getty Images)

A former Marine who choked a man to death on a New York subway train has said he was acting in self-defence.

Jordan Neely, 30, was tackled by fellow passengers after he screamed at them and paced back and forth on board a train on Monday night.

Passenger Daniel Penny, 24, a US Marine Corps veteran, wrapped his arms around Mr Neely’s neck and head and held him for several minutes in a chokehold until he went limp.

Mr Penny was taken into custody but released without charge, pending further investigation.

Mr Neely’s death has now been ruled a homicide caused by compression of the neck.

The incident has sparked outrage in New York, where Mr Neely was a Michael Jackson impersonator who regularly danced in Times Square.

In a statement issued by his lawyers on Friday, Mr Penny expressed condolences to Mr Neely’s family.

"We would first, like to express, on behalf Daniel Penny, our condolences to those close to Mr Neely," his lawyers said in a statement issued to US media.

The statement adds that Mr Neely “had a documented history of violent and erratic behaviour” which was “the apparent result of ongoing, and untreated, mental illness”.

The lawyers added that he had been “aggressively threatening” their client and other passengers, and that Mr Penny and others “acted to protect themselves, until help arrived”.

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

Penny was a sergeant in the US Marines based at Camp Lejune, North Carolina. He served until 2021.

A journalist on the train, Juan Alberto Vazquez, filmed the harrowing scenes and said Mr Neely had not attacked anyone.

Mr Neely reportedly shouted: “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up.”

Mr Penny approached him after he threw his jacket to the floor.

Activists have drawn parallels between Mr Neely’s death and the passing of George Floyd.

Floyd died when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020.

Footage of 46-year-old’s murder, in which he pleaded "I can’t breathe" sparked global protests.