JORDAN NEELY: In eulogizing the former subway performer in Harlem on Friday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Daniel Penny, who is White, and who Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spoken out in support of, was too quick to use deadly force in choking to death a Black man who posed no real threat. PHOTO COURTESY OF CURBED.COM VIA STOCK PHOTO
NEW YORK (AP) – In the polarizing wake of Jordan Neely’s chokehold death at the hands of a fellow New York City subway rider, there has been a "distortion of values," Rev. Al Sharpton said Friday in eulogizing the former subway performer at his funeral.
Neely, who had been struggling with mental illness and homelessness in recent years, "was screaming for help," Sharpton told a crowd of relatives, friends and elected ofﬁcials. They gathered at Harlem’s Mount Neboh Baptist Church to mourn the 30-yearold man, whose May 1 death set off a debate about vigilantism, homelessness and public safety.
People having mental health problems "don’t need abuse," he said, chastising people including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has spoken out in support of Daniel Penny, the man who
put him in the chokehold. The potential Republican presidential candidate has called Penny a "good Samaritan" and shared a fundraising link for Penny’s legal defense, which has raised more than $2 million.
Sharpton said the Biblical parable of the good Samaritan is about coming to the aid of someone in need.
"A good Samaritan helps those in trouble," Sharpton said. "They don’t choke him out."
Sharpton added, "What happened to Jordan was a crime and this family shouldn’t have to stand by themselves."
Elected ofﬁcials including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado were among the mourners attending the funeral, held at the same church where Neely’s mother, Christie Neely, was eulogized after she was murdered when Nelly was 14.
Neely’s last moments were recorded on video by an onlooker who said he had been yelling at other passengers as he begged for money, but hadn’t attacked anyone.
Neely’s death and Penny’s subsequent arrest divided New Yorkers and people beyond, with some saying Penny, who is White, was too quick to use deadly force on a Black man who posed no real threat, and others saying the 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran shouldn’t be punished for trying to protect people on the train.
The criminal justice system has also come under criticism for Penny initially being released after Neely’s death. Sharpton said that if the races of the men had been reversed, with a White man dying at a Black man’s hands, authorities "would not have let that Black guy leave the precinct that night."
While Neely had a history of disruptive behavior – he had been arrested many times and pleaded guilty this year to assaulting a stranger – friends and relatives said they don’t believe he would have harmed anyone had Penny just left him alone.
Sharpton, standing in front of a white casket with a flower arrangement on top, also condemned government policies and social service systems that he said had let Neely down and needed to be reformed.
"When they choked Jordan, they put their arms around all of us," he said. "All of us have the right to live."