Subway crime videos falsely linked to Jordan Neely

·3-min read

Several videos showing erratic to violent behavior in the New York City subway are wrongfully claimed to show Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man who was killed on May 1, 2023 by a fellow rider in an attack caught on camera. The clips, which accumulated millions of views, are unrelated to Neely's case, currently under investigation by New York prosecutors.

"More footage emerges of #JordanNeely," a May 4, 2023 tweet says -- attaching a clip of an altercation on the New York City subway, viewed 1.6 million times on the platform.

Other tweets -- here and here -- shared footage of additional assaults on the subway, linking the clips to Neely.

<span>A collage of screenshots of tweets taken by AFP</span>
A collage of screenshots of tweets taken by AFP

A police statement said officers responded to an incident on the F train at the Broadway-Lafayette station in Manhattan on May 1 and found Neely unconscious. He was transported to Lenox Hill Hospital "where he was pronounced deceased."

The death of Neely  -- identified as a Michael Jackson impersonator who often performed on the train -- sparked outrage in the city after a video showed him on the ground being choked by a fellow rider.

The case garnered heavy attention because Neely was Black and the man allegedly choking him -- identified in US media as Daniel J Penny, a 24-year-old former Marine -- was white.

Neely was living on the streets and had been arrested multiple times, including for unprovoked assaults on the subway, according to reports.

But the tweets sharing the clips are inaccurate.

Stealing food

The first video shows a shirtless man with torn sweatpants seemingly begging for money and then attempting to steal food from the plate of a passenger before exiting a subway car.

<span>A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 8, 2023</span>
A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 8, 2023

Through a reverse image search on Google, AFP identified the man in the video as Esteban Romero, a comedian with a series of similar videos on his social media accounts.






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A post shared by Esteban Hashtag Tino Romero (@officialigbum)

The passenger in the clip, was also part of the act -- as she acknowledged on her Instagram page (archived here).

Unrelated theft case

Another video incorrectly associated with Neely shows a woman assaulted and robbed on a subway track.

"Who cares if he was arrested 44 times doing this...He was a beloved Michael Jackson impersonator," a May 4 tweet says sharing the clip.

<span>A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 8, 2023</span>
A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 8, 2023

Reverse image search shows the same video was published online in 2021 in The Independent.

A statement released at the time by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg named the person in the video as 41-year-old Kevin Douglas. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in state prison.

2019 assault

A May 5 tweet including a video of a man violently pushing a bystander from the platform into a subway car was also claimed to be "Neely footage the media won't show you."

The same claim circulated elsewhere on Twitter and the clip received millions of views in a tweet from Elijah Schaffer, a podcaster whose content has been called out for racism.

<span>A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 9, 2023</span>
A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 9, 2023
<span>A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 5, 2023</span>
A screenshot of a tweet taken on May 5, 2023

But reverse image search again shows the clip does not depict the late New Yorker.

The man in the video was identified by the Chief of Transit at the City of New York Police Department on Twitter on October 24, 2019 as repeat offender Isaiah Thompson. He was charged with assault following the incident, according to local media reports.

Prosecutors are still considering their next steps in Neely's case.