Daniel Penny on Jordan Neely's death: "I couldn't just sit still"

The former Marine denied that he held Neely in a headlock for 15 minutes. "The whole interaction lasted less than five," he said, adding that it is "ridiculous" to think his actions were racist.

"At Second Avenue a man came on, stumbled on, he appeared to be on drugs." This is how former Marine Daniel Penny remembers May 1, the day he subdued homeless man Jordan Neely in the New York subway, according to a recent video released by his defense team.

Penny, who lives in Manhattan's East Village, was on his way home from college. When the subway doors closed, Neely ripped off his jacket and threw it at some passengers. Then Penny, by his own account, took out his headphones and heard the man repeat these three threats over and over, "I'm gonna kill you, I'm prepared to go to jail for life and I'm willing to die."

"This was a scary situation," the former Marine admitted. "There's a common misconseption that marines don't get scared. We’re actually taught, one of our core values is courage. Courage is not the absence of fear but how you handle fear."

Penny went on to explain that he feared for himself, but also for the other passengers, including women and children,"I couldn’t just sit still."

The former Marine also denied that he had held Neely by the neck with a key for 15 minutes. Instead, he claimed that he held him for only a few minutes and that the entire episode lasted less than five minutes.

No attempted murder, no racism

Daniel Penny also said in the video that "some people say I was trying to choke him to death, which is not true." To disprove this claim, the military veteran maintained that Neely's chest kept inflating and deflating. That is: Neely was still breathing while Penny was subduing him. This can be verified in the video of the incident, according to the former Marine himself.

He also refuted the claims of those who sustain that there was a racist motivation behind his actions. This, he argued, is "ridiculous": "I didn´t see a black man threatening passangers, I saw a man threatening passangers a lot of whom were people of color."

Penny also added that he was trying to protect Neely himself and that he was "trying to keep him on the ground until the police came, I was praying for them to come and take this situation over."


On June 17, Penny will appear again before the courts. For the time being, he is out on bail and faces charges of second-degree murder.

The deceased's family accuses the former Marine of having acted with indifference to Neely's special needs, a mental illness, and claims that despite Neely’s erratic behavior, he had not attacked anyone.

On the other side of the bench, however, Penny’s team argues that the ex-Marine acted in self-defense and to defend the other passengers on the subway. In addition, they point out that Penny could not have foreseen Neely's death.

The law firm defending the college student received nearly $3 million dollars in crowdfunding for his legal defense through a campaign on the GiveSendGo website.