NEW YORK (AP) — Jordan Neely, whose chokehold death on the New York City subway set off a debate about vigilantism, homelessness and public safety, will be mourned by his family Friday at a church in Harlem.
A former Michael Jackson impersonator who had been struggling with mental illness and homelessness in recent years, Neely died May 1 when a fellow subway rider pinned him to the floor of a subway car in a chokehold that lasted several minutes.
The fatal struggle was recorded on video by an onlooker who said Neely had been yelling at other passengers as he begged for money, but hadn’t attacked anyone.
Last week the man who pinned and choked Neely, Daniel Penny, was charged with manslaughter by the Manhattan district attorney. Penny’s lawyers say he was acting to protect himself and other passengers after Neely made threatening statements.
The arrest polarized New Yorkers and people beyond, with some saying Penny, who is white, was too quick to use deadly force on a Black man who posed no real threat, and others saying the 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran was trying to protect people on the train and shouldn’t be punished.
The eulogy at Neely’s funeral will be delivered by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a noted civil rights activist. The service at Mount Neboh Baptist Church will be presided over by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, a senior pastor who has a long link with Neely’s family.
In 2007, Neely’s mother was murdered by her boyfriend; Green delivered the eulogy at her funeral.
While Neely had wrestled with disruptive behavior — he had been arrested many times and pleaded guilty this year to assaulting a stranger — friends and relatives have said they don’t believe he would have harmed anyone if Penny had just left him alone.
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