NYPD awaiting autopsy results before deciding on charges in subway chokehold death
The New York Police Department is awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether to press charges in the death of a man put in a chokehold by a former marine on the New York City Subway.
A video has shown the ex-marine seemingly strangling an “aggressive” homeless man to death.
The video, filmed by journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, shows a man identified as Jordan Neely, 30, ranting aggressively and throwing his jacket on the ground when the commuter intervenes.
The passenger, whose name has not been released by police, pinned Neely to the ground in a chokehold for approximately 15 minutes, leaving him unconscious, according to the New York Post.
The incident occurred on Monday afternoon in the northbound Manhattan subway, according to police and Mr Vazquez.
The train was stopped at the Broadway-Lafayette Street/Bleeker Street station, where the conductor called 911. The man, who was rushed to hospital afterwards, did not survive.
In the video, the subway rider can be seen lying on the floor of the train with his arm wrapped around Neely’s neck.
Another bystander could be seen helping hold Neely down on the floor of the subway train.
The passenger was taken into custody but later released without charges.
The man is a Marine veteran, reported the New York Post.
The investigation is ongoing, and authorities are awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether to pursue charges against the 24-year-old former Marine.
Neely reportedly had a history of mental health issues and was homeless. However, according to Mr Vazquez, he had not physically attacked anyone before the passenger intervened.
“The disturbed man did not seem to want to attack anyone,” he wrote in a post in Spanish. “A young man with brown hair and a grey jacket grabbed him from behind the neck and pinned him to the floor while holding him with his legs.”
Mr Vazquez expressed mixed feelings to the New York Post about the encounter, saying citizens should use moderation when intervening in situations like this.
“I think that in one sense it’s fine that citizens want to jump in and help. But I think as heroes we have to use moderation,” he said.
“This would never have happened if the police had shown up within five minutes. Then we’d be talking about a true hero. It’s complicated.”
Mr Vasquez told the Post that ahead of the violent incident, Neely had started to “make a speech”.
“He started screaming in an aggressive manner,” he said. “He said he had no food, he had no drink, that he was tired and doesn’t care if he goes to jail. He started screaming all these things, took off his jacket, a black jacket that he had, and threw it on the ground.”
That’s when the former marine grabbed him. The 24-year-old declined to comment when reached by the Post and the New York Daily News.
“None of us who were there thought he was in danger of dying,” Mr Vasquez told the Post. “We thought he just passed out or ran out of air.”
David Schwartz, a criminal defence attorney and a former prosecutor, told CBS News that “You can only assert as much force as necessary in that particular situation, so was force even necessary? I don’t know. We have to see what the investigation unfolds”.
He added that self-defence may be a difficult argument to make.
“Was there another way to subdue this person besides getting him into a chokehold?” he asked, adding that what happened before the video may decide the trajectory of the case.
“Was this person just causing havoc or were they threatening the lives of others on the subway?” he asked. “I think the city of New York has created conditions as such where things like this are gonna happen.”
The man who died has more than 40 prior arrests and an active warrant for his arrest, stemming from a charge of felony assault, police told CBS News.
Neely used to busk in the subway by impersonating Michael Jackson, according to the Daily News, which also reported that he had a history of mental health problems.
His father, Andrew Zachary, told the paper that Neely’s mother was also “killed”. He said she was killed by her boyfriend.
Christie Neely was found dead stuffed in a suitcase on the side of a Bronx highway in 2007. Her son was 18 years old at the time. He testified at the murder trial of her boyfriend Shawn Southerland, saying that they fought every day before her death.
The boyfriend represented himself at the trial. He was convicted in 2012 of strangling her and she was sentenced to three decades behind bars, nj.com reported.
Mr Zachary said he hadn’t seen his son for four years, but told the Daily News that he was “great” at impersonating the disgraced pop star.
“I sat him in front of the TV and showed him the Jackson 5,” Mr Zachary said. “He took on the Michael Jackson thing and he really formed it very well.”
A neighbour of the father told the paper that “I felt like something was wrong with” Neely. “Just his aura, everything. Sometimes he was asleep in the hallway”.
“He wasn’t violent. He was more a don’t-look-at-me-type of person. Anxiety,” the neighbour added. “I felt like that’s why he did the Michael Jackson thing — he had better confidence. It just became like that’s all he wanted to do. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson.”