Marine who used BJJ on Jordan Neely to face manslaughter charges

The district attorney's office has released a statement that they plan to file manslaughter charges against Daniel Penny over the death of Jordan Neely.

By: Zane Simon | 3 weeks ago
Marine who used BJJ on Jordan Neely to face manslaughter charges

The New York Times reports that the Marine vet who was recorded using a rear-naked choke to subdue Jordan Neely, a homeless man, riding a NY city subway, will face charges of manslaughter. 24-year-old Daniel Penny is expected to turn himself in to authorities on Friday, May 12th.

Caught on video, the incident became a source of fierce debate. Initially reported as a heroic act to subdue a man in the midst of a violent outburst, Penny’s actions sparked heavy backlash when it was revealed that—while ranting at passengers and apparently throwing his jacket on the floor—Neely had apparently not made physical contact with nor threatened anyone with direct harm.

Penny was videoed holding the chokehold on Neely for several minutes, long past the point that Neely became unresponsive—until the train pulled into a station and authorities were summoned. Neely never recovered consciousness.

Outrage after Penny was released without charge

Despite Neely’s death investigating authorities released Penny shortly after interviewing him. The failure to charge or detain Penny became a flashpoint for protests around New York.

“We do need investigation,” NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told reporters at a press conference. “That investigation has to start with charges. Period.”

In a separate statement, New York Mayor Eric Adams noted that Jordan Neely “did not deserve to die,” but placed emphasis on Neely’s refusal to accept help. “There were many people that tried to help Jordan get the support he needed,” Adams said via a live-streamed speech. “But the tragic reality of severe mental illness is that some who suffer from it are, at times, unaware of their own need for care.”

District Attorney files manslaughter charge against Daniel Penny

In a statement to the New York Times, the district attorney’s office announced that they would be charging Penny with felony manslaughter in the second degree. The statement noted that Penny is set to appear in court on Friday for his arraignment and arrest.

“Daniel Penny will be arrested on a charge of manslaughter in the second degree,” the statement said. “We cannot provide any additional information until he has been arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, which we expect to take place tomorrow.”

Penny’s lawyers have released a statement on their client’s behalf, saying that Penny “never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his death.” Adding that Penny and other passengers “acted to protect themselves, until help arrived,” after “Neely began aggressively threatening passengers.”

A lawyer representing Neely’s family has issued their own statement, noting that Penny’s actions amounted to vigilante justice and that Neely was “robbed of his life in a brutal way by someone who decided that they were judge, jury, and executioner on the spot.”

Jiu Jitsu community responds to Jordan Neely’s death

With Neely’s death seemingly coming at the hands of a commonly taught and widely used jiu jitsu technique, it’s no surprise that this incident has reached the martial arts community as well. Popular BJJ expert and creator of the Gracie Breakdown video series, Rener Gracie gave his thoughts in a short piece on YouTube.

“What Jordan really needed was help,” Gracie said, after describing the scene. “He did not deserve to die and this was an absolute tragedy.

“Now, when someone chooses to intervene in a situation where they believe a threat is being presented to innocent civilians, it can be noble—even heroic. But, only if it’s done with reasonable force and the objective of de-escalating the situation. The choice to physically intervene in a situation must be done with very careful consideration. And these considerations differ greatly depending on whether your physicality is reactive or preemptive.

“If someone is being violently assaulted and you decide to intervene, this would be considered reactive physicality, because the situation has already escalated, prior to your involvement. And therefore anything you can do to reduce the risk of serious bodily injury or death is not only understandable, but in most cases commendable.

“If, however, someone is acting erratically, but hasn’t assaulted anyone, your choice to intervene physically would be considered preemptive. And this is where training makes all the difference. Preventive physical intervention can be deescalatory, commendable, heroic, and even legal. But, only if the intervener has the skills to engage in a way that not only keeps themselves safe, but keeps the other person safe as well.

“In a preemptive use of force situation, if you don’t have the training, your attempt to deescalate could have the exact opposite effect. And this is what we witnessed on that New York City subway.

“And just because the technique he used is one also practiced in Jiu Jitsu regularly, does not mean he represents all of us who train Jiu Jitsu every day, so that we are prepared to handle situations like these effectively and humanely.”

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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