The mayor of New York City is apparently refusing to say whether an unarmed Black man who was killed after being placed in a protracted chokehold by a vigilante passenger on a subway train was murdered despite medical examiners ruling his death a homicide.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also suggested that those referring to the death of Jordan Neely, 30, as murder were being irresponsible and jumping to conclusions even though that conclusion had already been definitively reached by medical officials.
Adams, a former longtime police officer who’s made no secret of his unwavering allegiance to the NYPD, appeared on CNN more than an hour after the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner determined on Wednesday night that Neely’s homicide was caused by “compression of neck” or a “chokehold.”
The incident that happened on an F-line subway in Manhattan on Monday was partially recorded on video by a bystander and took place as Neely reportedly was experiencing a mental health crisis during which he was shouting about being hungry. After Neely reportedly took off his jacket and threw it to the ground of the subway car, video footage shows a still-unidentified white man employing a sprawling chokehold on Neely while at least one other man helps hold him down.
The chokehold reportedly lasted for as long as 15 minutes, police told reporters.
First responders couldn’t revive Neely and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital a short time later.
The person who choked Neely to death, who is allegedly a 24-year-old Marine veteran, was arrested but quickly released without being arrested or charged.
It was in that context that Adams lashed out at those who have said Neely was murdered and criticized the heroic treatment of the homicidal vigilante in local media. Adams specifically referred to New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who called the incident “a public murder” — and state City Comptroller Brad Lander — who tweeted the definition of “vigilantism” in response to the killing.
“Both the congresswoman and the comptroller, the comptroller’s a citywide leader and I don’t think that’s very responsible at the time where we are still investigating the situation,” Adams told Abby Phillip on CNN Primetime.
Adams said he wanted to have “the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do and I’m going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine exactly what happened here.”
Adams deflected when Phillip suggested the lenient reaction from law enforcement could set a dangerous precedent for subway passengers moving forward.
“We have so many cases where passengers assist other riders. And we don’t know exactly what happened here,” Adams said. “And so we cannot just blatantly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that, and we should allow the investigation to take its course.”
Again, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide by chokehold, so it’s unclear exactly what other information Adams is waiting to be investigated before calling for the arrest and prosecution of the vigilante whose identity is being protected by law enforcement and local media.
To add insult to literal injury, video footage recorded at a protest on Wednesday showed NYPD appearing to arrest people for demanding justice for a person who was choked to death by a man who lacks any law enforcement authority.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said it was investigating the case.
“As part of our rigorous ongoing investigation, we will review the Medical Examiner’s report, assess all available video and photo footage, identify and interview as many witnesses as possible, and obtain additional medical records,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Wednesday. “This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors and we will provide an update when there is additional public information to share.”
Neely’s death came more than a decade after his mother suffered a similar homicidal fate at the hands of his stepfather in 2007.
Slightly more than 16 years earlier, 14-year-old Neely was an eyewitness to the domestic violence that ultimately contributed to the murder of his own mother.
Christine Neely was 36 years old when her boyfriend choked her to death, stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it on the side of a highway in the Bronx.
More than four years later, an 18-year-old Jordan Neely testified during Shawn Southerland’s murder trial how he saw the couple “fight every day,” NJ.com reported at the time.
That marked a turning point for Jordan Neely, his aunt told the New York Post.
Carolyn Neely said her nephew was “a complete mess” after his mother’s murder, adding that “he has never been the same” since.
Carolyn Neely continued: “It had a big impact on him. He developed depression and it grew and became more serious. He was schizophrenic, PTSD. Doctors knew his condition and he needed to be treated for that.”
She added: “The whole system just failed him. He fell through the cracks of the system.”
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