The New York Police Department is awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether to file charges in the choking death of a former Marine on the New York City subway.
A video has shown the ex-Marine apparently strangling an “aggressive” drifter to death.
The video, filmed by journalist Juan Alberto Vázquez, shows a man identified as Jordan Neely, 30, aggressively ranting and throwing his jacket to the ground when the traveler intervenes.
The passenger, whose name has not been released by police, pinned Neely to the ground in a chokehold for approximately 15 minutes, knocking him unconscious, according to the New York Post.
The incident occurred Monday afternoon on the northbound Manhattan subway, according to police and Mr. Vázquez.
The train stopped at the Broadway-Lafayette Street/Bleecker Street station, where the conductor called 911. The man, who was rushed to the hospital afterwards, did not survive.
In the video, the subway passenger can be seen lying on the floor of the train with his arm around Neely’s neck.
Another passerby could be seen helping to hold Neely down on the floor of the subway train.
The passenger was detained for questioning but was later released on recognizance without charge.
The man is a Navy veteran, reported the New York Post.
The investigation is ongoing and authorities are awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether to charge the 24-year-old former Marine.
Neely reportedly had a history of mental health issues and was homeless. However, according to Vázquez, she had not physically attacked anyone before the passenger intervened.
“The disturbed man did not seem to want to attack anyone,” he wrote in a Spanish-language post. “A young man with brown hair and a gray jacket grabbed him behind the neck and pinned him to the ground while he held him down with his legs.”
Vázquez expressed mixed feelings to the New York Post about the meeting, saying that citizens should use restraint when intervening in situations like this.
“I think, in a sense, it’s okay that citizens want to step in and help. But I think as heroes we have to use restraint,” she said.
“This would never have happened if the police had shown up in five minutes. Then we would be talking about a true hero. It’s complicated.”
Vasquez told the Mail that prior to the violent incident, Neely had begun “giving a speech.”
“He started yelling aggressively,” she said. “He said he had no food, he had no drink, he was tired and he doesn’t care if he goes to jail. He started yelling all these things, he took off his jacket, a black jacket that he had, and he threw it on the ground”.
That’s when the ex-marine grabbed him. The 24-year-old declined to comment when contacted by the Mail and the New York Daily News.
“None of us who were there thought they were in danger of dying,” Vásquez told the Mail. “We think she just passed out or ran out of air.”
David Schwartz, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, told CBS News that “you can only use as much force as is necessary in that particular situation, so was force necessary? I don’t know. We have to see how the investigation develops”.
He added that self-defense can be a difficult argument to make.
“Was there another way to subdue this person besides strangling him?” she asked herself, adding that what happened before the video can decide the trajectory of the case.
“Was this person just causing havoc or was he threatening the lives of others on the subway?” she asked. “I think New York City has created conditions where things like this will happen.”
The man who died has more than 40 prior arrests and an active warrant for his felony assault charge, police told CBS News.
Neely used to play on the subway posing as Michael Jackson, according to the Daily News, who also reported having a history of mental health problems.
Her father, Andrew Zachary, told the newspaper that Neely’s mother was also “murdered.” She said that she was killed by her boyfriend.
Christie Neely was found dead in a suitcase on the side of a Bronx highway in 2007. Her son was 18 at the time. She testified in the murder trial of her boyfriend Shawn Southerland and said they fought every day before her death.
The groom represented himself at trial. He was convicted in 2012 of strangling her and she was sentenced to three decades behind bars, nj.com reported.
Mr. Zachary said he hadn’t seen his son in four years, but told the Daily News that he was “cool” posing as the pop star.
“I sat him down in front of the TV and showed him the Jackson 5,” Zachary said. “He took on the Michael Jackson thing and he really shaped it very well.”
A neighbor of the father’s told the newspaper that he “felt there was something wrong with” Neely. “Just his aura, everything. He sometimes fell asleep in the corridor ”.
“He was not violent. He was more of the type of person that he doesn’t look at me. Anxiety,” added the neighbor. “I felt that’s why he did the Michael Jackson thing: he was more confident. He just turned as if that was all he wanted to do. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson.”
Dave Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement: “This horrific incident is yet another reminder of the utter failure of Governor Hochuls and Mayor Adams to provide the critical mental health services so desperately needed in our city.
“In addition, the fact that someone who took the life of a mentally ill and distraught human being on a subway can be released without facing any consequences is shocking and evidence of the City’s callous disregard for the lives of the homeless and psychiatrically ill. This is an absolute travesty that needs to be investigated immediately.”
New York State Senator Julia Salazar called Neely’s death a “lynching.”
“A man named Jordan Neely was strangled to death in public on the subway this week as people watched and even cheered. This is horrible. The constant demonization of the poor and people in mental health crisis in our city allows this barbarism. He is making our city sick,” he said. tweeted. “The fact that people, including some in the media, seek to justify the violent act of strangling a man to death on the subway after subduing him is terrifying. Nothing can justify the murder of Jordan Neely. It is cruel and depraved, and we cannot look away.”
Radio announcer Rafael Shimunov tweeted that “there will be a vigil for Jordan Neely at the site at 3 pm today. Uptown F train platform at Broadway and Lafayette”.