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‘He’d Be In a Cell Right Now’: Former Marine Accused In Chokehold Death of Jordan Neely to Face Charges; Eyewitness Says He Tried to Aid Unhoused Man But Was Blocked By the Veteran

The ex-Marine seen in a viral video gripping a homeless man’s neck in a chokehold is expected to be charged with second-degree manslaughter on Friday, according to reports.

A bystander who was at the scene of the incident on a New York City subway train where Jordan Neely was held in the deadly chokehold says he tried to help Neely but was barred from doing so by Daniel Penny.

Eyewitness Johnny Grima, a homelessness activist, told The New Yorker he was there on the F Train at Broadway-Lafayette Street station on May 1.

Daniel Penny has been condemned by the public for putting Black street performer Jordan Neely in a deadly chokehold on a subway train in New York City. (Photos/Twitter)

Grima said the scene was pretty intense.

Related: ‘Omg. I’ve Seen This Case’: Twitter Makes Eerie Discovery About Jordan Neely, Black Man Choked to Death on Subway and His Mother’s Story That Was Profiled on ‘Fatal Atraction’ Years Ago

“I saw Penny holding Neely by the neck and another guy holding on to Neely as if he was still resisting. Neely was staring off. But, honestly, at the moment, I didn’t know how long they had had him,” Grima said.

“The way they were holding him, it was as if they had just had the craziest fight or something. They’re holding on to him for dear life. Somebody was filming it, and this person finally said, ‘You gotta let him go.’ They finally let him go, and he just fell limp.”

A medical examiner ruled Neely’s death as a homicide last week. News 4 New York reports the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office plans to bring charges without a grand jury review.

Grima said he noticed that Jordan’s eyes were completely still and he wasn’t moving, but stated that the people who pinned Neely down said Neely was still breathing.

“They were acting in such a way that no one else could come next to him. I told them to put him on his side. I didn’t believe that he was dead. I’d never seen a dead body before. I didn’t want him choking on his own spit or vomit.”

That’s when Grima decided to move in and provide aid to Neely.

“I had my water bottle in my hand. I wanted to try to check him out. But I was intimidated by these people. I didn’t know anybody. I wasn’t not trying to get stabbed. I tried to move in. I poured a little water on his forehead. And Daniel Penny came over and told me to stop. He shuffled me off.”

Grima says first responders arrived soon after and he suggested they administer CPR on Neely. After learning of Neely’s subsequent death, he said he won’t feel at ease until Penny is arrested and blames law enforcement for not taking immediate action to arrest him, basing their inaction on Penny’s race. He’s pleading for justice to be served swiftly in the case.

“The only reason they’re letting him off is the race of the people involved. If that was a white woman he choked to death, he’d be in a cell right now,” Grima said.

Penny’s attorneys said in a statement that he “never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death” while also calling on elected officials to take progressive action and address mental health crises on New York City’s streets and subways.

Family members of Neely have also released statements since Neely’s death condemning Penny’s actions.

“Daniel Penny suggests that the general public has shown ‘indifference’ for people like Jordan, but that term is more appropriately used to describe himself. It is clear he is the one who acted with indifference, both at the time he killed Jordan and now in his first public message,” the statement says in part. “He never attempted to help him at all. In short, his actions on the train, and now his words, show why he needs to be in prison.”

Demonstrations have taken place across the city over the last week with calls to indict Penny. The former Marine must turn himself in on Friday. It is unclear if the other men who held Neely down during the fatal altercation will face charges.

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