Marine veteran charged with manslaughter goes public, says homeless man threatened to kill him

Daniel Penny is pictured in custody outside the NYPD's 5th Precinct station house on Friday, May, 12, 2023, in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Leonard Greene
New York Daily News

Daniel Penny, the Marine veteran whose chokehold killed Jordan Neely on the floor of a subway car last month, claims in a new interview he was “scared” and felt “intimidated” by the homeless victim.

In newly recorded interviews released Sunday by lawyers defending him on manslaughter charges, Penny said he wasn’t “trying to choke him to death” during the May 1 F train encounter, but just wanted to hold the menacing passenger long enough for cops to intervene.

“I was trying to keep him on the ground until the police came,” Penny, 24, said in the videos posted on the Law & Crime Network Youtube channel. “I was praying that the police would come and take this situation over. I didn’t want to be put in that situation, but I couldn’t just sit still and let him carry out these threats.”

YouTube video

According to Penny, an East Village resident, Neely was threatening passengers and, despite Penny’s own fear, he felt compelled to respond.

“There’s a common misconception that Marines don’t get scared,” Penny said in the interview with his lawyers. “We’re actually taught one of our core values is courage and courage is not the absence of fear but how you handle fear. I was scared for myself but I looked around, there was women and children. He was yelling in their faces saying these threats. I just couldn’t sit still.”

Penny jumped into action, a clash that ended with Penny, 24, and Neely, 30, on the filthy train floor with Penny’s arm around Jordan’s neck and Jordan unable to breath.

“Some people say that I was holding on to Mr. Neely for 15 minutes,” Penny said. “This is not true. Between stops is only a couple of minutes. So the whole interaction lasted less than 5 minutes.”

“Some people say I was trying to choke him to death, which is also not true,” he added. “I was trying to restrain him.”

Penny surrendered to police nearly two weeks later. He remains free on $100,000 bail.

The killing of Neely, an unarmed Black man, has sparked protests and racial tensions.

But Penny, who is white, said race was not a factor.

“Some people said this was about race, which was absolutely ridiculous,” Penny said. “I didn’t see a Black man threatening passengers — I saw a man threatening passengers, a lot of whom were people of color.

“A man who helped restrain Mr. Neely was a person of color,” he pointed out. “A few days after the incident, I read in the papers that a woman of color came out and called me a hero.”

Neely had been arrested 42 times in the past 10 years, most recently in November 2021 for slugging a 67-year-old woman in the face as she exited a subway station.

Once a fixture in Times Square and aboard city subways as a Michael Jackson impersonator, he had a history of mental illness.

The city Medical Examiner declared the death a homicide, finding Neely died from compressions to the neck as Penny applied the hold with his left arm wrapped around the victim’s throat.

Viral video showed Neely struggling while held, his legs flailing until he finally stopped moving.

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