Jordan Neely Is Mourned at Harlem Funeral

Andre Zachery, father of Jordan Neely, stands next to his son’s casket at the funeral, Friday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

NEW YORK (AP) — Friends, family members and civil rights leaders gathered at a Harlem church on Friday to mourn Jordan Neely, whose chokehold death on the New York City subway set off a debate about vigilantism, homelessness, mental health and public safety.

Neely, who had been struggling with mental illness and homelessness in recent years, died May 1 when a fellow subway rider pinned him to the floor of a subway car in a chokehold that lasted several minutes, after Neely allegedly had been shouting and threatening passengers. The fatal struggle was recorded on video by an onlooker.

Last week the man who pinned and choked Neely, Daniel Penny, was charged with manslaughter by the Manhattan district attorney. Penny’s lawyers say he was acting to protect himself and other passengers after Neely made threatening statements.

The Rev. Al Sharpton told worshippers that Neely’s life should be celebrated, “but we should not ignore how he died.”

Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Harlem’s Mount Neboh Baptist Church, said Neely died “not because of natural causes but because of unnatural policies.”

Neely’s death and Penny’s subsequent arrest polarized New Yorkers and people beyond, with some saying Penny, who is white, was too quick to use deadly force on a black man who posed no real threat, and others saying the 24-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran was a hero trying to protect people on the train.

Sharpton added, “What happened to Jordan was a crime and this family shouldn’t have to stand by themselves.”

Daniel Penny leaves Manhattan Criminal Court last week. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon, File)

While Neely has had dozens of arrests including several for assault, friends and relatives have said they don’t believe he would have harmed anyone if Penny had just left him alone.

Sharpton said Neely was screaming for help.

“People keep criminalizing people that need help,” he said. “They don’t need abuse, they need help.”

Elected officials including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado were among the hundreds attending the funeral, which was at the same church where the funeral for Neely’s mother, Christie Neely, was held after she was murdered when Neely was 14.

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