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Death of homeless man on New York City subway ruled a homicide

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — A homeless man named Jordan Neely was killed by another New York City subway passenger who held him in a chokehold for several minutes, according to police and a video taken of the incident.

Neely had been allegedly yelling and ranting on the train before being subdued by another subway passenger, according to independent journalist Juan Alberto Vázquez, who reported on the incident via the Facebook page “Luces de Nueva York.”

“‘I don’t have food. I don’t have a drink. I am fed up,'” Neely said, according to Vázquez. “‘I don’t care if I go to jail, and if they give me life in prison … I am ready to die.'”

According to the NYPD, a 24-year-old man subdued Neely, who was allegedly harassing passengers and making threats. Police sources told ABC News that the man was not specifically being threatened by Neely when he intervened.

Cellphone video taken by Vázquez captured the aftermath.

The footage appears to show Neely being choked by another subway passenger as a different passenger holds down Neely until he stops moving.

Police confirmed Neely lost consciousness after the physical struggle. Neely was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The medical examiner determined that Neely was killed by the chokehold, and his death has been ruled a homicide.

The 24-year-old man was questioned by detectives and released, according to police.

“This is a solemn and serious matter that ended in the tragic loss of Jordan Neely’s life,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday night in a statement. “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.”

The statement continued, “This investigation is being handled by senior, experienced prosecutors and we will provide an update when there is additional public information to share.”

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to the NYPD.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander has spoken out over Neely’s death.

“NYC is not Gotham. We must not become a city where a mentally ill human being can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence. Or where the killer is justified & cheered,” Lander said in a tweet.

Advocates for homeless populations say anti-homeless sentiment wrongfully paints this vulnerable population as inherently dangerous and creates a climate of fear of them that increases “the likelihood of these sorts of tragedies,” according to a statement from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable individuals in our communities,” the organization told ABC News.

Homeless populations are more likely to be victims of violence and crimes than general populations, according to research in The Lancet public health journal.

Reports of homeless people being killed or attacked in California and South Carolina have also made headlines in recent weeks.

Dave Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, told ABC News that political rhetoric surrounding the community has led to violence and hate.

“The fact that someone who took the life of a distressed, mentally-ill human being on a subway could be set free without facing any consequences is shocking, and evidences the City’s callous indifference to the lives of those who are homeless and psychiatrically unwell,” said Giffen in a statement.

According to police sources, Neely had a documented mental health history. He had been arrested more than 40 times prior for assault, disorderly conduct and fare evasion.

Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters Wednesday that she found the video “deeply disturbing” and gave a nod to the $1 billion dollar investment in mental health services throughout the state.

In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams said there’s “a lot we don’t know about what happened here,” refraining from commenting much on the killing.

“Any loss of life is tragic,” said Adams. “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.”

The New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called for a “thorough” investigation by the Manhattan district attorney.

“Let’s be clear: any possible mental health challenges that Jordan may have been experiencing were no reason for his life to be taken,” she said in a statement. “The initial response by our legal system to this killing is disturbing and puts on display for the world the double standards that Black people and other people of color continue to face. There must be accountability for his killing.”

The NYPD has issued a call for public help as investigators review video footage and other material, urging anyone who saw or has any information about this matter to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

The Manhattan DA’s office encourages anyone who witnessed the incident or might have information to also call 212-335-9040.

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