Jordan Neely: killing of homeless man provokes anger in New York

Neely, who died after fellow subway passenger put him in a chokehold, was known in New York as a Michael Jackson impersonator

Police officer at Jordan Neely protest
The incident has sparked protests as a video of the altercation spread online
(Image credit: Jake Offenhartz/AP)

The death of a 30-year-old homeless man during an apparent mental health episode on the New York subway after he was put in a chokehold by a former US Marine has provoked outrage across the city.

Jordan Neely, who was known in New York as a “skilled Michael Jackson impersonator” at one time earning a living performing in Times Square, died on Monday after he was confronted by a fellow subway passenger, said The Guardian.

Dozens of protesters gathered on a Manhattan subway platform on Wednesday evening, 48 hours after Neely’s death, to protest “what some say is a semi-sanctioned vigilante response to homelessness and the mental health crisis”, added the paper.

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According to police officers, Neely had been “harassing passengers on the subway” and “making threats” before he was held in a “minutes-long headlock by a 24-year-old former US marine”, who has not been named.

Juan Alberto Vazquez, a reporter who filmed the confrontation, told the New York Post that Neely was screaming “in an aggressive manner” and complained of being hungry and thirsty but had not physically attacked anyone.

The incident has sparked outrage and protests as the video of the altercation spread online. Some have described it “as a lethal overreaction to a person in the throes of mental illness”, said France 24, while others defended the ex-Marine’s actions.

New York is currently grappling “with how to reduce both crime and the number of people with mental illness living on the streets, while also respecting the rights of its most vulnerable residents”, said the The New York Times. Mayor Eric Adams has promised to deploy additional police officers and mental health workers throughout the city’s transport system following several high-profile incidents.

The ex-Marine, “who appeared to be white, was taken into custody and released without charges”, said ITV News. The medical examiner’s office classified Neely’s death as a homicide and the manner as a chokehold but, as Axios noted, the homicide ruling means a “death caused by another person and it’s not a ruling on intent or culpability.

“It’s up to police and prosecutors to determine whether charges should be brought.”

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.