Daniel Penny, the Marine Who Subdued Jordan Neely, Speaks Out

AP Photo/Jeenah Moon

Daniel Penny, the marine who subdued Jordan Neely, a violent drifter, on a New York subway, has released his side of the story. It should send shock waves of embarrassment through the Manhattan District Attorney’s office where Alvin Bragg decided to charge Penny with manslaughter.


Penny appeared in a video interview and told a harrowing story we haven’t heard from the media:

A man stumbled on. He appeared to be on drugs. The doors closed, and he ripped his jacket off and violently threw it at the people sitting down to my left. I was listening to music at the time, and he was yelling, so I took my headphones out to hear what he was yelling. And the three main threats that he repeated over and over were “I’m gonna kill you,” “I’m prepared to go to jail for life,” and, “I’m willing to die.” You know, this was a scary situation…

There’s a common misconception that Marines don’t get scared. We’re actually taught one of our core values is courage. And courage is not the absence of fear, but how you handle fear. I was scared for myself, but I looked around and saw women and children. He was yelling in their faces, saying, saying these threats. I couldn’t just sit still.

Some people say that I was holding on to Mr. Neely for 15 minutes. This is not true. Between stops is only a couple of minutes. So the whole interaction was less than five minutes. Some people say I was trying to choke him to death, which is also not true. I was trying to restrain him. You can see in the video, there’s a clear rise and fall of his chest, indicating that he’s breathing. I’m trying to restrain him from… being able to carry out the threats. And then some people say that this was about race, which is absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t see a black man threatening passengers, I saw a man threatening passengers — a lot of whom were people of color. The man who helped restrain Mr. Neely was, was a person of color.


The media portrayed Penny as a virulent racist. Back in May, Zeeshan Aleem at MSNBC accused Penny of racism because he said he was planning a trip to Africa (seriously):

Penny told the Post that the incident — in which Penny, who is white, is accused of killing Neely, who was a homeless Black man — “had nothing to do with race” and vowed that “I’m not a white supremacist.” But his explanation of why the incident couldn’t have anything to do with race warrants skepticism: “I was actually planning a road trip through Africa before this happened,” he told the Post.

OK! I’d call this the latest version of “some of my best friends are Black” defense. This reasoning neither rules out nor confirms whether Penny was motivated by racial prejudice, but ironically it should heighten our suspicion that race was at play.

Should it, though? Should we be suspicious of every white man who hits the news for some reason or another and try to link him to racism by the thinnest of threads, like the media did to Penny? What about waiting for facts and evidence because accused people are “innocent UNLESS proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?” The guilty verdict is by no means a foregone conclusion, and the media would do well to remember that before destroying someone’s reputation forever.

Related: NY Times Op-Ed Writer Says Anyone Who Fears Crazies on the Subway Should Get ‘Therapy’

In his taped account of the situation on the subway, Neely went on to say that witnesses confirmed his narration. Several of those witnesses have come forward to various media outlets. Neely elaborated:


A few days after the incident, I read in the papers that a woman of color came out and called me a hero. I don’t believe that I’m, I’m a hero. But she was one of those people that I was trying to protect. We were all scared. Mr. Neely was yelling in these passengers’ faces. And they looked terrified.

The reason why there was no video at the start of the altercation was because people were too afraid [or] getting away from him. And the videos didn’t start until they saw that situation was under control.

I knew I had to act. And I acted in a way that would protect the other passengers, protect myself, and protect Mr. Neely. 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 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, on the force that he’s exerting. And I mean, I was trying to keep him on the ground until the police came, I was praying that the police would come and take this situation and take the situation over. I didn’t want to be put in that situation. But I couldn’t just sit still and let, let him carry out these threats.

The people on that train should be (and by all accounts appear to be) grateful Penny was a fellow passenger that day. Who knows what Neely would have done if he had not acted? The media frenzy to call Penny a racist murderer without a shred of evidence led to obnoxious protests by people who were lied to, and ultimately to Penny’s prosecution — which now looks ridiculous.


It is not by any means certain, however, that the state of New York won’t get a conviction against the Marine. The jury pool has been poisoned by non-stop media lies. Can Penny get a fair trial? The right thing to do would be to drop the charges. But Alvin Bragg is too much of a political monster to do that. He’s going to go after an innocent man with the full force of the law while he lets career criminals off with a slap on the wrist.

You can see Penny’s interview below.


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