(NewsNation) — Pressure is mounting on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg in connection to the death of a man on a New York subway train at the hands of a fellow rider who placed him in a chokehold last week. Will the subway rider potentially face charges? Attorney Donte Mills says he had “no authority” to place someone in a chokehold.
NYPD reported that at around 2:30 p.m. May 1. Jordan Neely, 30, known locally as a Michael Jackson impersonator on the subway, boarded the northbound F train at the Broadway-Lafayette Street/Bleecker Street station in Manhattan and started acting erratically.
One witness, who captured video of the incident, told NewsNation affiliate WPIX that Neely, who was experiencing homelessness, said: “I don’t have food, I don’t have to drink, I’m fed up … I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison … I’m ready to die.”
Video shows a 24-year-old subway rider, later identified as former Marine Daniel Penny, and others putting Neely in a chokehold and holding him down. Around two minutes into the video, Neely appears to stop struggling and is released from the chokehold, unmoving on the floor, about a minute later.
Once officers arrived on the scene, police said Neely was unconscious. From there, he was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.
Mayor Eric Adams says the NYPD responded to the incident in around six minutes after the 911 call came in. Some witnesses say the struggle lasted 15 minutes.
Mills is representing Neely’s family. He appeared on “Dan Abrams Live” on Monday evening to shed light on his client’s choking death.
“He (Penny) knew or should have known that choking him (Neely) for 15 minutes would kill him. I can’t tell you what was in his mind when he approached him. I can’t do that. I wouldn’t try to do it. I’m not going to tell you why,” Mills said.
He continued: “Daniel Penny was not attacked. Daniel Penny was not hit. He wasn’t fighting back. He’s the one who began that fight. He came up from behind Jordan, put him in a chokehold and didn’t let go for 15 minutes.”
Attorneys for Penny say their client “never intended to harm” Neely.
In a statement to the Law & Crime Network, Penny’s attorneys said: “When Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves until help arrived. Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”
Mills insists Penny had no authority to hold Neely.
“Legally, what we want to see is: Are you responding to force of any kind? That’s what police have to do and they have the authority to act. As a civilian, he has no authority,” Mills said.
Some claim the choking death may have been racially motivated, but Mills said he doesn’t know if it is comparable to the deaths of Eric Garner or George Floyd.
“I don’t know if this is a comparison of Eric Garner or George Floyd, because those are police officers who were tasked with acting. This is a civilian, that’s deciding that ‘I have the right to put my hands on him and to hold him down for 15 minutes,’” Mills said.
Police questioned Penny about the incident and released him without charges. Last week, Bragg’s office said it would review autopsy reports and “assess all available video and photo footage, identify and interview as many witnesses as possible, and obtain additional medical records.”
The medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to “compression of neck (chokehold).” That ruling does not solely determine legal culpability.