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Molotov cocktail found, at least 11 arrested in protests over Jordan Neely's death, police say

Outrage grows over death of man on NY subway
NYPD arrests protesters as a grand jury considers charges in subway chokehold death 02:56

At least 11 protesters were arrested as they clashed with authorities in New York City on Monday night, during demonstrations over the killing of Jordan Neely, who was choked to death on the F train earlier this month.

Crowds of protesters gathered outside the subway station in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood where Neely was killed on May 1, CBS New York reported. Authorities stopped traffic in the surrounding area and made several arrests, taking some protesters into custody who were bleeding from their heads, according to the news station. Police estimated that more than 150 people were involved in the demonstration.

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey acknowledged protesters' right to demonstrate over "the senseless death" of Neely, but said at a news conference late on Monday that people in the crowd had broken the law, including by bringing weapons and dangerous substances to the demonstration. Maddrey noted specifically that authorities found a Molotov cocktail at the intersection where the crowd had gathered to protest.

For days, protesters have been calling for the arrest of Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who, in video footage lasting nearly three minutes, can be seen placing Neely in the chokehold that led to his death. Although the New York City medical examiner formally ruled 30-year-old Neely's death a homicide, Penny has not been criminally charged in the killing. The former Marine was questioned by police, but released the same day.

The case is expected to go before a grand jury this week, as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg faces growing pressure to file criminal charges against Penny. The grand jury will determine whether or not to bring charges. 

Protesters have said they will continue to demonstrate until Penny is arrested. Monday's demonstration over Neely's death followed another over the weekend inside a subway station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Authorities say a crowd of about 100 people stormed the station, with some jumping onto the subway tracks in protest. At least 12 people were arrested during the demonstration, where multiple officers were injured, and police later released photos of six other alleged protesters wanted for criminal trespassing in connection with the incident.

Neely, a homeless man who performed in New York City as a Michael Jackson impersonator, had a history of mental illness as well as an arrest record, sources previously told CBS New York. Witnesses and Penny's attorney said that Neely was acting erratically, yelling about being tired and hungry, on the subway train when Penny, allegedly attempting to subdue him, placed Neely in the fatal restraint. 

On Monday, Neely's family urged city officials to take action to move his case forward in a statement released by their attorneys. 

They argued that Penny's "actions on the train," as well as his own statement released after the fact, "show why he needs to be in prison." A press release issued on Penny's behalf by his attorney last week said the former Marine "never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death," calling the deadly chokehold "a tragic incident on the NYC subway."

Subway Chokehold Death
A group of several hundred people protest the death of Jordan Neely, Friday, May 5, 2023, at Washington Square Park in New York. Neely, a locally-known Michael Jackson impersonator who friends say suffered from worsening mental health, died Monday, May 1, when a fellow rider pulled him to the floor and pinned him with a hold taught in Marine combat training. Brooke Lansdale / AP

Michael Bachner, the former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, told CBS Mornings that a grand jury could potentially find that Penny acted in self defense when he restrained Neely on the subway.

"I think what happened is, things got really out of control. But horrible accidents can sometimes turn into a manslaughter," Bachner said. "The testimony of other people on the train, how endangered they may have felt, how heightened and really kind of scary and aggressive the whole situation was, that could lead to the conclusion that he acted in self defense."

But Lennon Edwards, the attorney for Neely's family, argued that Penny should be held accountable for his role in the killing.

"Justice, immediately, means an arrest," Edwards told CBS Mornings. "It means following the process through, and letting Daniel Penny have a day in court where he tries to prove that none of this is what we know it to be. A murder."

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