By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The purpose of this Soldier column more than anything is to ask a bunch of questions that are hopefully well-reasoned, and with the result being to inspire discussions that possibly lead us to think deeply about drugs, mental illness, and the role of bystanders when it comes to protecting people. There must be a call for systemic changes that begin with a cry for a just and fair outcome in the case of The People of New York City v. Daniel Penny that have a ripple effect across the nation. While that goal may sound lofty, it is the responsibility of every freedom-loving American, whether or not military service has been a part of their life, to ask questions and seek out answers when an incident occurs that threatens to divide us further. It is the only way we will remain free. And, it is crucial that we let the story be the story, no matter how good, bad or ugly the facts of the case end up being.
So, let’s get started. A broken and harmful mentally ill man with an extensive criminal record is dead after being restrained by three passengers, including a Marine, in a NYC subway because he was threatening those on board. He was a dangerous man, having been arrested 42 times for things like attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old girl, striking a 67-year-old woman so hard that he broke her nose and her eye socket, assaulting an elderly man, and a laundry list of drug-related offenses. He was so well-known by the NYPD that he was on a list of fifty such people who are on the streets of NYC. To put things into perspective, he served a total of four months on the greatly reduced “endangering the welfare of a child” charge. The man’s name was Jordan Neely, and when he wasn’t getting arrested, he did Michael Jackson impersonations, busking on the subway platforms. I am wondering, would Neely be alive today if justice had been served in what should have been a kidnapping charge, seeing as he was observed dragging the little girl down the street? Would Neely be alive if long ago he had been locked up and gotten treatment while he was serving time?
I am not a doc, but if even the Mayo Clinic talks about the fact that Ketamine, which is used in surgery to cause someone to lose conscieousness, and Neely’s family admits that he was “self-medicating” with it, could that have been a factor in his death?
Enter Daniel Penny, who served honorably in the United States Marine Corps, who is the only one being charged in the chokehold death of Jordan Neely. He allegedly believed that he and the other passengers on the subway were in danger to the point that he intervened and put Neely in a choke hold while two other passengers restrained him as well. At first, in fact for five days, there was no indication that he was going to be criminally charged for what happened. Five days later, Daniel Penny was charged with second degree manslaughter. So, what changed? A protest that tried to portray Neely as a martyr and a victim of racism.
Of course, the politics that have entered the case have become predictably epic. But here is where we need to cling to the rule of law and let the facts of the incident speak for themselves. Was Neely a victim? Was Penny a protector or a perpetrator? May God have mercy on our souls and help us to get to the truth of this tragedy. And truth, when it is “true truth,” promises to set us, all of us free.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner