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Medical examiner rules Jordan Neely's death a homicide after subway chokehold

Jordan Neely's death ruled a homicide after subway chokehold
Jordan Neely's death ruled a homicide after subway chokehold 02:38

NEW YORK - The death of the man put in a chokehold on the subway has officially been deemed a homicide.

The 24-year-old Marine veteran who put the victim in a chokehold Monday was questioned by police and released that same day.

Even though the medical examiner determined it was the chokehold that killed him, we're told the Marine was still not in police custody Wednesday night, but the district attorney is investigating.

A group gathered in anger Wednesday inside the East Houston and Lafayette subway station, where 30-year-old Jordan Neely was choked to death on the subway two days prior.

"A life was senselessly taken away. Someone who was homeless, struggling with mental health. Right now a lot of folks are infuriated because our government is not prioritizing housing," one person said.

"We're just outraged as a community that there has been no arrest or formal of charges against the man who has yet to be identified who killed Jordan Neely," one person said.   

"This is absolutely devastating. Should have never happened. We have been pleading with MTA and state to put in social workers, deploy them into the subway system," Jack Nierenberg of Passengers United said. 

One witness said Neely had been panhandling and shouting on the train, but the witness said, "It did not appear that this man, who seemed to be suffering from some kind of mental disturbance, was seeking to assault anyone."

Watch Zinnia Maldonado's report

Investigation continues into man's death after subway chokehold 02:14

In a video, the 24-year-old Marine veteran can be seen holding Neely in a chokehold for nearly three minutes while two other passengers help to restrain his arms.

"All three of those people who held him should be arrested. A proper investigation should be conducted. The man who choked him to death should be charged with murder," said Hawk Newsome, with Black Lives Matter, Greater New York.

According to the Marine Corps, the man who sources say put Neely in a chokehold is a decorated veteran Marine sergeant who separated from service two years ago.

Neely was a subway busker and Michael Jackson impersonator with more than 40 prior arrests and an active warrant out for his arrest from a felony assault.

Homeless advocates argue none of that justifies his death.

"It's horrible that something had to go to this extent, this tragic loss of life, to underscore that this approach of treating people as dangerous or as a threat just because they're in need has to stop," said Corinne Low, director of the Open Hearts Initiative.

"Jordan Neely was choked to death by a stranger on a New York City subway while experiencing a mental health crisis. Countless broken systems failed Jordan and led to this moment, including community perceptions of mental illness. We must end the notion that erratic behavior is grounds for a death sentence," State Sen. Samra Brouk said. "Like so many others, I have questions about what took place before and during Jordan's mental health crisis. Where were support and outreach teams? Did anyone call 311 or 988? Had Jordan needed food, shelter, and treatment services in the days and weeks before his murder? And most importantly, where was the compassion?"

"The National Action Network demands the District Attorney and police investigate this horrific incident as a potential case of manslaughter – if not murder," Rev. Al Sharpton said. "Thirty years ago, I fought the Bernard Goetz case and we cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable. It wasn't acceptable then and it cannot be acceptable now."

Law experts said the situation could be a tough legal argument. 

"You can only assert as much force as necessary in that particular situation. So was force even necessary? I don't know. We have to see what the investigation unfolds," criminal defense attorney David Schwartz said. 

Watch Jennifer Bisram's report

Manhattan DA investigating deadly subway confrontation 02:02

Wednesday morning, subway riders were calling the outcome unfortunate. 

"I don't think anyone should die or anything like that. It's kind of crazy. But I guess it's, like, a problem that needs to be fixed, the homelessness," said Bronx resident Noah Danij. 

Some subway riders acknowledged the danger at hand. 

"It's unfortunate that he died, don't get me wrong," Washington Heights resident Camille Garreaud said. "The NYPD doesn't have that many officers, at least to my knowledge - you can't have an officer on each train car all the time."

The Manhattan DA's office released the following statement:

"This is a solemn and serious matter that ended in the tragic loss of Jordan Neely's life. As part of our rigorous ongoing investigation, we will review the Medical Examiner's report, assess all available video and photo footage, identify and interview as many witnesses as possible, and obtain additional medical records. This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors and we will provide an update when there is additional public information to share. The Manhattan D.A.'s Office encourages anyone who witnessed or has information about this incident to call 212-335-9040."

"Let's let the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do," Mayor Eric Adams said.

The mayor's officer released the following statement:

"Any loss of life is tragic. There's a lot we don't know about what happened here, so I'm going to refrain from commenting further. However, we do know that there were serious mental health issues in play here, which is why our administration has made record investments in providing care to those who need it and getting people off the streets and the subways, and out of dangerous situations. And I need all elected officials and advocacy groups to join us in prioritizing getting people the care they need and not just allowing them to languish."

While there are surveillance cameras on some subway cars, we're told there were not any on this one.

"One element we haven't talked about is the billion dollar investment in mental health services so we don't have people who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the throws of mental health episodes. And that's what I believe are some of the factors here," Gov. Kathy Hochul said. "There are consequences for behavior. I will look at it more closely to find out whether the state has a role." 

"That was deeply disturbing, and that causes a lot of fear for people, and actually the mayor and I are working so hard to restore that sense of safety. We have cameras on the subway, more police officers, were assisting with overtime. We have been doing so much and the numbers are improving. The number of crimes on subways is declining and I don't want people to feel anxious again when something like that comes to light. It was deeply disturbing," she added. 

The Marine Corps denied comment on this investigation.

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