The family of Jordan Neely, the 30-year-old Black man who was publicly choked to death on a New York City subway, has condemned a statement released by his killer, white 24-year-old Daniel Penny.
Penny’s statement makes it clear that he and his legal team are intent on continuing to vilify Neely, putting the victim of a heinous killing on trial for his own death, Neely’s family said.
The press release by Penny and his legal team, which was released on Friday, claims — contrary to witness recollections — that Neely was “aggressively threatening” Penny and that Penny was simply acting to “protect [himself]” when he held Neely in a chokehold that reportedly lasted for 15 minutes, ultimately killing him. “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the statement claimed.
Neely’s family condemned the statement on Monday, calling it an “admission of guilt.”
“Daniel Penny’s press release is not an apology nor an expression of regret. It is a character assassination, and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan’s life,” the family said in a statement via their lawyers.
In their release, Penny’s team discusses how “‘good’ he is,” while in “the next paragraph he talks about how ‘bad’ Jordan was in an effort to convince us Jordan’s life was ‘worthless,’” the statement by Neely’s family continues.
“The truth is, he knew nothing about Jordan’s history when he intentionally wrapped his arms around Jordan’s neck, and squeezed and kept squeezing,” the statement goes on.
The family implored New York City Mayor Eric Adams to give them a call and criticized the right-wing Democrat for his recent statements implying that Neely bore responsibility for his own death.
Directly before Penny killed Neely last Monday, Neely had entered a New York City subway train and told passengers “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” according to witness Juan Alberto Vazquez, who posted video of the incident online.
Vazquez said that Neely never interacted with Penny before the ex-Marine approached Neely and began choking him. After the killing, Penny was taken in by police and released without charges shortly after. Medical examiners later found that Neely died due to compression of the neck, and officials have ruled his death a homicide. Protests have erupted in response to the killing.
A decision regarding charges for the killing is expected to be announced this week.
Scholars and progressives have said that Neely’s killing is emblematic of growing repression of poor and unhoused people in the U.S., along with the rise of sanism — the oppression of those perceived as mentally ill — among the far right and liberal Democrats, many of whom spent the days after Neely’s death justifying extrajudicial killings of people experiencing homelessness or mental health issues. Tellingly, as right-wing pundits rushed to put Neely on trial in the days after his killing, Daniel Penny’s identity was withheld by officials.
Neely’s death at the hands of a white veteran also highlights the “pathologization of Blackness,” as George Yancy noted in an interview for Truthout last week.
“In the mad Black person, all the violences of modernity converge to produce death. That is what we witnessed on the New York subway,” said Toronto Metropolitan University professor Idil Abdillahi, Yancy’s interview subject. “Add to that homelessness, and the mad Black person without property is the perfect anthesis of this violent brutal capitalist society — they must be made to disappear by all means necessary.”
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