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Daniel Penny says he felt no shame after the NYC subway death of Jordan Neely

Daniel Penny is walked out of the New York Police Department 5th Precinct on May 12 after he surrendered to authorities after being charged with second degree manslaughter in the chokehold death of Jordan Neely.
Timothy A. Clary
/
AFP via Getty Images
Daniel Penny is walked out of the New York Police Department 5th Precinct on May 12 after he surrendered to authorities after being charged with second degree manslaughter in the chokehold death of Jordan Neely.

In his first interview since placing Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold, former U.S. Marine Daniel Penny insisted that the confrontation between the two "had nothing to do with race," and he was "not a white supremacist."

"Everybody who's ever met me can tell you, I love all people, I love all cultures," Penny told the New York Post. "I was actually planning a road trip through Africa before this happened."

Penny, 24, who is white, faces a felony charge of second-degree manslaughter for the death of Neely, a 30-year-old Black man who was homeless. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. His next court date is July 17.

The altercation took place on May 1 on a New York City subway train. Neely, who used to perform on subway platforms as a Michael Jackson impersonator, was shouting that he was hungry and thirsty and willing to die. Moments later, Penny put Neely in a chokehold for several minutes. Neely was pronounced dead that same day.

"I can tell you that the threats, the menacing, the terror that Jordan Neely introduced to that train has already been well documented," Penny told the Post.

However, there has been no reported indication that Neely physically attacked any person.

Penny added that Neely's death was tragic and the real blame should be on "the system."

"It's tragic what happened to him. Hopefully, we can change the system that's so desperately failed us," he said.

Penny went on to say that he felt no shame. When asked if he would do it again, he nodded and said, "I would — if there was a threat and danger in the present."

Penny was arrested more than a week after the incident and after protests calling for him to be charged. Activists drew comparisons between Neely's death, shown in a viral video, and the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, who died at the hands of white police officers.

But Penny repeatedly told the New York Post that race had nothing to do with the confrontation between him and Neely.

"I judge a person based on their character. I'm not a white supremacist," he said.

Neely's funeral service took place on Friday at Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church. The Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado were among those who attended.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.