NEW YORK - The 24-year-old U.S. Marine veteran facing charges in the subway chokehold death of Jordan Neely is speaking out as the case continues to draw intense scrutiny.
In a series of three videos shared with FOX 5 NY by his defense lawyers, Daniel Penny shared why he felt compelled to act that day on the subway, and addressed several comments that he’s heard from the public in the weeks since Neely’s death.
"He appeared to be on drugs," Penny recounted, thinking of the moment Neely first stepped foot on the subway, and said that Neely was verbally threatening other riders.
"The three main threats that he repeated over and over was: ‘I'm going to kill you; I'm prepared to go to jail for life; and I'm willing to die," Penny said.
Penny described the situation as scary, and said he acted anyway, out of courage based on his training in the Marines.
"There's a common misconception that Marines don't get scared," Penny said. "One of our core values is courage, and courage is not the absence of fear but how you handle fear."
Screenshot from bystander video showing Jordan Neely being held in a chokehold on the New York City subway. (Luces de Nueva York/Juan Alberto Vazquez via Storyful)
In the video sent to Fox 5 NY, Penny detailed the hold used on Neely and said that he "pray[ed] the police would come."
"I used this hold to restrain him and I did this by leaving my hand on top of his head to control his body. You can see in the (bystander) video, there's a clear rise and fall of his chest indicating that he was still breathing and I’m calibrating my grip based on the force that he's exerting. I was trying to keep him on the ground until the police came."
Neely, 30, later died from compression of the neck, according to the medical examiner.
Penny also touched on the basis of race and the assumption that he targeted Neely because he was Black.
"I didn't see a Black man threatening passengers, I saw a man threatening passengers, a lot of whom were people of color," Penny said.
He also noted that a man who helped him restrain Neely was a person of color.
"I knew I had to act, and I acted in a way that would protect the other passengers, protect myself and protect Mr. Neely," Penny said.
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 Penny shouldn't be punished for trying to protect people on the train.
Neely, known by some commuters as a Michael Jackson impersonator, had a history of mental illness and had frequently been arrested in the past. Bystanders said he had been shouting at passengers, begging for money and acting aggressively, but didn't touch anyone aboard the train.
Penny has been charged with manslaughter by the Manhattan district attorney in May. His lawyers say he was acting in self-defense.
He’s facing the specter of a five- to 15-year prison term, according to Fox News Digital, and is currently out free on a $100,000 bond as his case proceeds.
His lawyers didn’t include any additional comment or information when the videos were sent to FOX 5 NY Sunday.