NOHO, Manhattan (WABC) -- The cause of death has been revealed for a subway rider who died after he was put into a chokehold by a former Marine on the train.
Jordan Neely, 30, was on a northbound F train at the Broadway-Lafayette station when he began acting erratically at around 2:30 p.m. Monday, police said.
Authorities say he was harassing passengers and making threats when a 24-year-old stepped in and attempted to subdue him.
A physical struggle ensued, leading to Neely losing consciousness. He was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On Wednesday, a medical examiner determined Neely was killed by a chokehold (compression of the neck) and his death was ruled a homicide. However, that does not mean his case will be prosecuted as a homicide, that is up to the Manhattan DA's office, which is investigating.
Neely has a history of prior arrests and was known by the MTA and police, but many believe Neely did not need to die and there is growing backlash over the case.
The man who tackled Neely claimed he was stepping in to help fellow passengers who felt scared and threatened. But at a vigil for Neely on Wednesday afternoon, advocates said it was Neely who needed help most, and society failed him.
Tensions were high as a small crowd gathered on the platform to denounce what they saw as an injustice in the Broadway-Lafayette station.
"And because what people are constantly given is this narrative that homeless people are dangerous, people think they can take matters into their own hands and view a Black man being upset that he's hungry as a threat," said Krys Cerisier with Vocal NY.
The 24-year-old subway rider was questioned by detectives and released. His story is being corroborated by the other passengers on the train, police said, who told investigators that as he restrained Neely, he asked fellow passengers to call 911.
Witnesses told detectives Neely came onto the subway, threw his jacket on the floor and began screaming and yelling, pacing up and down the train car. Many of the riders said he was acting in a hostile and erratic manner. But one of the riders was less concerned, later telling detectives it was just another day on the subway.
Police say the 24-year-old Marine was not specifically being threatened by Neely when he intervened. He gave a full statement to detectives, and was then released pending further investigation.
Years ago, Neely could be seen in the subways dancing like Michael Jackson. The Manhattan borough president tweeted Wednesday that he saw him performing many times on the A-train, and that he made people smile.
But in recent years, he'd been arrested more than 40 times on the subway for crimes like public lewdness and assaulting a senior citizen.
According to sources, witnesses to his final moments told police Neely was erratic and hostile -- but it's not clear if he was threatening violence.
"He should not have been on that train in the first place, he should have been housed," Cerisier said.
Along with his criminal background of 44 prior arrests, he also had a documented mental history, police sources said.
"Our government, our society, should actually provide those wraparound services instead of leaving someone languishing out there and that's a failure on all of us, and our elected leaders," said Adolfo Abreu with Vocal NY.
Gov. Kathy Hochul called it "deeply disturbing" and noted the state made a billion-dollar investment in mental health services.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander expressed outrage on Twitter, saying there must be consequences for the man who put Neely in the chokehold and he should not be "justified & cheered."
The Coalition for the Homeless blamed the "complete failure to provide the critical mental health services desperately needed by so many people in our city," calling it an "absolute travesty."
"This horrific incident is yet another reminder of Governor Hochuls' and Mayor Adams' complete failure to provide the critical mental health services desperately needed by so many people in our city," the statement said. "What's more, the fact that someone who took the life of a distressed, mentally-ill human being on a subway could be set free without facing any consequences is shocking, and evidences the City's callous indifference to the lives of those who are homeless and psychiatrically unwell. This is an absolute travesty that must be investigated immediately."
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