Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Daniel Penny Gives First Interview Addressing Subway Killing

Nearly three weeks after he was captured on video choking Jordan Neely, a homeless man, to death on a New York City subway, Daniel Penny spoke publicly about the episode for the first time on Saturday in an interview with The New York Post.

Mr. Penny, 24, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Mr. Neely, 30, on an F train on May 1. He gave few details in the interview about what happened in the moments before prosecutors say he approached Mr. Neely from behind and placed him in a chokehold, but he said the confrontation was unlike “anything I’d experienced before.”

He said he had been on his way to a gym in Manhattan when he encountered Mr. Neely. Witnesses said Mr. Neely had been shouting at passengers that he was hungry, thirsty and “ready to die,” according to the police. There has been no indication that Mr. Neely physically attacked anyone.

In a video recorded on the train by a freelance journalist, Mr. Penny is seen on the floor with his arms around Mr. Neely’s neck for several minutes as two other riders help pin Mr. Neely down. The medical examiner’s office ruled Mr. Neely’s death a homicide two days later, and said that the cause of death was compression of his neck.

The killing of Mr. Neely, who was Black and had struggled with mental illness, quickly divided political leaders and led to protests around the city. It fueled debate between those who believe that Mr. Penny, who is white, responded with violent vigilantism to a person who needed help, and those who believe he was trying to stop a threat.

Despite not having spoken publicly since the encounter, Mr. Penny, a former Marine, has been embraced by conservative political figures, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a likely Republican presidential candidate who called him a good Samaritan and urged his followers to donate to a campaign for Mr. Penny’s legal defense. The fund has raised about $2.7 million.

Politicians, city leaders and activists on the left have asked why Mr. Penny was not immediately arrested. He was interviewed by the police after the killing and released until he was arrested and charged on May 12.

In an impassioned eulogy at Mr. Neely’s funeral in Harlem on Friday, the Rev. Al Sharpton argued that had Mr. Neely been white, and had it been a Black man who choked him, the police “would not have let that Black guy leave the precinct that night.”

Mr. Penny insisted in the interview that his encounter with Mr. Neely “had nothing to do with race.” When asked about Mr. Sharpton’s comments, Mr. Penny said he was “not sure” who Mr. Sharpton was.

Lennon Edwards and Donte Mills, lawyers for Mr. Neely’s family, called the Post interview a “disgrace” that was intended to cast Mr. Penny in a positive light. “There’s no remorse,” Mr. Edwards said. “There is no accountability. There was no acknowledgment he killed someone.”

In the interview, Mr. Penny spoke about his upbringing on Long Island, his military service and his travels around the world. He said he did not watch the news or use social media and was surprised by the extensive media coverage of his actions.

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