'An especially heated debate': Jordan Neely’s death reopens painful wounds among New Yorkers

'An especially heated debate': Jordan Neely’s death reopens painful wounds among New Yorkers

New York City has been rocked by major political tensions and infighting among Democrats following the death of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old homeless man, on Monday, May 1. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has attacked the 24-year-old marine who put Neely in a chokehold (identified by the New York Post as Daniel Penny) as a "murderer," and City Comptroller Brad Lander described the marine as a "vigilante."

But centrist Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, a former New York City police officer, denounced their comments as "irresponsible," saying that the case deserves a careful and thorough investigation — not inflammatory rhetoric and a rush to judgement.

In an article published by the New York Times on May 4, reporters Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Maria Cramer stress that the incident has "become a political Rorschach test" among New Yorkers and is "dividing the city along long-simmering fault lines."

READ MORE: 'A new low': AOC slams NYC mayor Adams for blaming Jordan Neely’s death on 'serious mental health issues

Penny, according to CNN, was a passenger on NYC's F Train when he saw Neely (who suffered from mental illness) yelling and making other passengers fearful. One of the passengers, Juan Alberto Vazquez, filmed the incident using his smartphone; Neely reportedly said, "I don't care if I die. I don't care if I go to jail. I don't have any food.… I'm done."

Fitzsimmons and Cramer describe comments from Ocasio-Cortez and Adams as an "uncommonly tense exchange" between the NYC Democrats, noting that Neely's death raises issues ranging from mental health, poverty and homelessness to fears over crime and safety.

"In the wake of Mr. Neely’s death," the Times journalists report, "the debate has become especially heated…. In a city where disturbing subway encounters are a fact of life, many (New Yorkers) wrestled with uncomfortable questions about how they might respond when faced with a person who is both frightening other riders and obviously in crisis…. Every New Yorker has a story of witnessing an outburst or a violent episode on the subway and struggling over how to respond."

Right-wing pundits at Fox News, from Jesse Wattersto Lawrence Jones, have been quick to exalt Penny as a concerned citizen who took action to protect fellow subway riders when they felt threatened. Jones, an African-American conservative, was vehemently critical of AOC and Black Lives Matter protesters, saying, "Apparently, they think that Jordan Neely should have been allowed to attack innocent passengers on the subway."

READ MORE: Watch: NYC Mayor Eric Adams announces program to involuntarily commit mentally ill homeless people

Neely was reportedly throwing trash at subway passengers while yelling. Many conservatives have pointed out that Neely had been arrested over 40 times in the past and been charged with assault.

Fitzsimmons and Cramer note that Neely's death has "reminded many New Yorkers of" the Bernhard Goetz case — a point that journalist Olivia B. Waxman makes in an article published by Time on May 4.

In December 1984, Goetz shot four men on the subway who he said were trying to rob him. Goetz had been the victim of a violent mugging in 1981, and his supporters hailed him as someone who was fed up with crime and stood up.

One of Goetz's outspoken defenders was The Guardian Angels' Curtis Sliwa. Goetz was tried for attempted murder but acquitted.

Many years later, some of the New Yorkers interviewed by the Times after Neely's death said that the May 1 incident underscores their worries about violent crime on the subway.

Rahnuma Tarannum, a 25-year-old Brooklyn resident, told the Times that she carries pepper spray for protection and commented, "Because police are not doing their job, that's why the citizens of New York are taking the law into their hands. Somebody has to do something."

Maria Castaño, a 64-year-old Brooklyn resident, told the Times that she views Penny as a hero and added, "I feel sorry for the man, but he was acting threatening."

READ MORE: 'Jordan Neely was murdered': AOC blasts NYC mayor for attacking 'very services' that could have helped

Read the New York Times full reportat this link(subscription required).

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