NEW YORK — The Rev. Al Sharpton, in a fiery Saturday address, demanded criminal charges against all involved in the choke-hold death of Jordan Neely aboard a Manhattan subway train.
“If you do not prosecute … you will set a standard of vigilantism that we cannot tolerate,” said Sharpton in his weekly Harlem headquarters appearance. “The precedent alone is a threat to all of us. We cannot allow this lawlessness to go unchecked.”
Sharpton urged charges against two other straphangers seen in the video where Marine veteran Daniel Penny wrapped his arm around the homeless and mentally ill victim’s neck until Neely was left motionless on the floor.
“You’re not going to choke this young man to death and not let us stand up and raise our voices,” said Sharpton. “From a civil rights point of view, we are petitioning (that) the choker and the two folks helping him are all brought before a grand jury.”
Prosecutors had yet to make a decision on criminal charges in the case, although the city Medical Examiner ruled the death was a homicide.
The civil rights activist echoed the frustrated father of Neely, 30, who told the Daily News there needed to be accountability and an arrest in his son’s death.
“A mental issue on a train is not to be sentenced with death,” said Sharpton. “This man needs to be prosecuted.”
A lawyer for Penny, 24, issued a statement Friday saying his client and other passengers acted “to protect themselves” aboard a northbound F train below Manhattan last Monday inside the Broadway-Lafayette St. stop.
“I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” said Neely before the confrontation. “I don’t mind if I go to jail and (get) life in prison … I’m ready to die.”
Neely, with a long history of mental illness and 42 prior arrests, was grabbed by Penny as the confrontation escalated, with the ex-Marine wrapping his left arm around the man’s neck as they went to the floor of the train.
“Let’s start with criminal charges,” said Public Advocate Jumanne Williams. “How can no one be charged? That man was killed because he was Black, homeless and angry. That’s why he was killed, choked him to death. There has to be accountability.”
Sharpton invoked the December 1984 subway train shooting of four Black youths by Bernhard Goetz and the July 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner during a Staten Island arrest where he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.”
“This is a fusion of both cases,” said Sharpton. “… (Penny) does not have the right to set precedent, where you become judge, jury and executioner.”