Law enforcement officials in New York City met on Thursday to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against a Marine veteran who killed Jordan Neely, a homeless man with an extensive criminal record, after he allegedly threatened passengers on a subway train.
Witnesses said Neely embarked on an aggressive rant in the subway on Monday afternoon, moving erratically and allegedly screaming that he did not care if he went to jail, according to freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez and a report from The New York Post. An unnamed individual, a former Marine, subdued Neely with the help of at least one other passenger. The New York City medical examiner confirmed on Wednesday that Neely died from a “chokehold” and ruled the incident a “homicide,” although criminal proceedings would be necessary to determine intent or culpability.
Manhattan prosecutors and detectives met to evaluate whether the case should be presented to a grand jury to determine if charges should be introduced, according to a report from The New York Daily News. One police source told the outlet that five passengers contacted 911 before and during the altercation. Callers reported that Neely was issuing threats, as well as “harassing people” and “attacking people,” and said that the Marine was restraining him until police officers could arrive. Another caller claimed that Neely had a “knife or gun,” although officers did not find any weapons on Neely, who first responders were unable to revive.
The homeless New Yorker has been the subject of more than one dozen 911 calls over the years; he had schizophrenia and previously told police officers that he heard voices.
Neely has a record that includes 42 prior arrests between 2013 and 2021: while most of the arrests were related to turnstile jumping and other low-level crimes, he was arrested two years ago for punching a 67-year-old female in the face and knocking her to the ground as she exited a subway station, as well as for attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old girl he was seen dragging down a street, according to the report. He pleaded guilty to felony assault over the first incident but never completed his alternative-to-incarceration program, for which he missed a compliance court date in February, and pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child over the second incident and was sentenced to four months in jail.
New York City and other major metropolitan areas have moved to eliminate cash bail or otherwise decrease sanctions for violent offenses in recent years, permitting dangerous individuals to return to the streets.
The report from The New York Daily News added that Neely’s mental decline started in 2007, when his mother was fatally strangled by her boyfriend. Neely’s father, Andre Zachary, told the outlet that Neely subsequently left high school and ceased to take his prescription medications. His autism reportedly presented difficulties as he sought to find steady employment.
The Marine, who was questioned by police officers on Monday and subsequently released, reached the rank of sergeant during his four years in the Marine Corps, officials with the maritime land force service branch told the outlet. He received medals for good conduct, humanitarian and national defense service, and service during the war on terrorism.
He was most recently assigned at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and served as a rifleman in the Mediterranean. He told the outlet that he was not answering questions at this time.
Public officials have already sparred over the incident: New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams remarked that the death of Neely underscores the need to assist unwell homeless people, but said there was “a lot we don’t know about what happened here,” while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed he was not “able to clearly condemn a public murder because the victim was of a social status some would deem ‘too low’ to care about.”