Ex-Marine Daniel Penny insisted to The Post Saturday that the chokehold killing of Jordan Neely had nothing to do with race — and everything to do with a broken system “that so desperately failed us.”
In his first public comments since the caught-on-video May 1 tragedy on an F train, Penny was both soft-spoken and stoic about being at the center of a political and racial firestorm, as he faces criminal charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years.
“This had nothing to do with race,” said Penny, 24, sitting under a gazebo at Argyle Park in Babylon, not far from the Long Island beaches where he grew up surfing.
Dressed in black slacks, a blue zip-up jacket and beat-up Vans sneakers, Penny didn’t flinch when asked about Neely, a black, 30-year-old mentally ill homeless man.
“I judge a person based on their character. I’m not a white supremacist.”
“I mean, it’s, it’s a little bit comical. Everybody who’s ever met me can tell you, I love all people, I love all cultures. You can tell by my past and all my travels and adventures around the world. I was actually planning a road trip through Africa before this happened.”
He is not a vigilante, Penny said. “I’m a normal guy.”
The confrontation on the train began after Neely allegedly began yelling at other straphangers and throwing trash. Penny said he could not go into detail about the events that then transpired because of his pending case, but he indicated it wasn’t like “anything I’d experienced before.”
“I can tell you that the threats, the menacing, the terror that Jordan Neely introduced to that train has already been well documented. I don’t think it’s going to even be controversial. There are numerous witnesses from all different walks of life who have absolutely no motive to do anything other than to recount what actually happened. They are uniform in their recollection of events.”
Penny said he was coming back to Manhattan from school and was en route to his gym on West 23rd Street when the chaotic encounter erupted. He did not want to name the school where he is studying architecture. He is now taking classes remotely.
“I was going to my gym,” Penny said. “There’s a pool there. I like to swim. I was living in the East Village. I take the subway multiple times a day. I think the New York transit system is the best in the world and I’ve been all over the world.”
Penny seized Neely around the neck and dropped to the floor as a second and third man tried to restrain him further, according to witnesses and video of the fatal encounter.
The city medical examiner has ruled Neely’s death a homicide, noting he died due to “compression of neck (chokehold).”
Penny was charged with second-degree manslaughter and is free on $100,000 bail. It is not clear if authorities will look to charge the other two men. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has six months to secure a grand jury indictment against Penny, according to Penny’s attorney, Steven M. Raiser.
Neely’s family has said Penny should be tried for murder.
But Penny’s attorneys have said he didn’t intend to kill Neely when he choked him — he was merely trying to defend himself and fellow straphangers from a threatening homeless man, who had a long history of mental illness and numerous prior arrests.
When asked what he would say to the family of Jordan Neely, whose funeral was Friday, Penny looked somber, carefully choosing his words.
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of life,” he said ” It’s tragic what happened to him. Hopefully, we can change the system that’s so desperately failed us.”
But when asked if he would take action again if he were in a similar situation, Penny nodded.
“You know, I live an authentic and genuine life,” Penny said. “And I would — if there was a threat and danger in the present …”
Does he feel he did anything to be ashamed of?
“I don’t, I mean, I always do what I think is right.”
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