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Mayor Eric Adams: New York City failed Jordan Neely

Mayor Eric Adams says NYC failed to help Jordan Neely
Mayor Eric Adams says NYC failed to help Jordan Neely 02:28

NEW YORK -- There are calls for charges, and change, after the subway death of Jordan Neely, seen on video being held in a chokehold on an F train. 

A Manhattan grand jury will decide whether to bring charges against 24-year-old Marine veteran Daniel Penny, seen holding 30-year-old Neely in a chokehold last Monday. 

"That could've been me, or any of the other one in five New Yorkers have a mental health crisis on the subway," Kimberly Blair of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC said. "Fear doesn't justify or give someone the right to hold them in a headlock." 

Mental health advocates and several elected say not charging Penny is an outrage. 

"Jordan Neely was unjustly killed and charges must be immediately brought against the person who killed him. To say anything else furthers a narrative that devalues the life of a Black man with mental health challenges and devalues New Yorkers in greatest need," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said. "I believe we are now doing to Jordan what we did while he was living. We are dehumanizing him. We are not providing what he needs in death even as we did in life." 

Neely was a homeless Michael Jackson impersonator with dozens of prior arrests. Witnesses say he was acting erratically on a packed F train last Monday, screaming and saying he wasn't afraid to die. Police labeled him "emotionally disturbed."

Watch Jessica Moore's report

City officials call for charges after chokehold death of Jordan Neely 02:26

"Jordan had been in the hospital. If you place someone in the hospital, when they're released with no continuum of care, it doesn't really help, and we don't have enough beds and we are now cutting the beds that we do have," Williams said.

"Is it really so much more dangerous to have someone crying out in anguish that they want food and water and shelter? That's more dangerous than someone being choked to death?" mental health advocate Jordan Rosenthal said.

"We need to do better so we no longer have this revolving door of hospitalizations, homelessness, shelters and jail," Blair said.

Penny's attorney released a statement last week saying, in part, "Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death." 

Neely's family has criticized Mayor Eric Adams for not demanding charges be filed against Penny. On Wednesday, Adams stopped short of calling for charges, but said the system failed him. 

"Over the last several years, Jordan was connected with many city agencies. He had various encounters with criminal justice, and was provided services to help him live safely in the community. Those efforts were not enough, and we must find ways to strengthen our system," Adams said. 

Adams is calling for more supporting housing for mental health patients, extended care to cover court-ordered outpatient treatment, and stronger legislation to allow state intervention when someone is deemed a threat to themselves, or others. He also announced a mental health summit to address the systemic issues next week. 

District Attorney Alvin Bragg will present the case to a grand jury as early as this week. 

Bragg said he doesn't want people to mistake his silence on the death of Neely for inaction. 

"We follow the facts... and that's what we do. We carefully scrutinize, after we gather it, all available evidence. We do that work mostly behind closed doors, and that's important because we don't want to impair investigations," Bragg said. "We don't want to impair the integrity of any investigation... . Sometimes, people peer into the silence and look at that as if 'Oh, the office isn't doing anything' or it's not important. It's quite the contrary. It is because it's our solemn obligation to assess the facts, and apply the facts to the law, and how gravely and seriously we take that, that we don't speak lest we impair any investigation." 

City Comptroller Brad Lander says the city needs more supportive housing and widely available mental health services. 

"New York City is not Gotham. We can't be a city where you can choke someone to death who's experiencing a mental health crisis," Lander said. 

As protests erupted across the city, Adams urged people not to rush to judgment and said the investigation needed to play out. 

Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks on Jordan Neely's death 13:37

Wednesday, Adams admitted the city failed Neely. 

"One thing we can say for sure: Jordan Neely did not deserve to die, and all of us must do more to support our brothers and sisters with mental illness," Adams said. "We can not and will not accept this state of affairs."

The mayor, who last year directed police to involuntarily hospitalize mentally ill individuals experiencing homelessness who were deemed a danger to themselves, vowed to meet with outreach workers about how to better help those in crisis.

Adams pushed Albany to pass his Supportive Interventions Act to codify the state's role in mental health intervention.

"We need the tools to get people into treatment at critical moments when they are simply unable to self-direct," Adams said.

"It's frustrating to hear the mayor just saying the same old," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "He's approaching this as an issue to be dealt with with force, coercion, and not with the empathy and supportive services and housing."

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