A man who said he was previously attacked by Jordan Neely, who died earlier this month after being restrained by a U.S. Marine veteran on a New York subway, has spoken out about his experience.
Filemon Castillo Baltazar was reportedly assaulted by Neely in 2019 while he was waiting for a train in Greenwich Village. Baltazar told the New York Daily News that he was ambushed by Neely, who then punched him in the head.
“I felt a punch to my head. He didn’t say anything, he just hit me. He hit me above my right eye,” Baltazar said.
“He should have been in some rehab center,” Baltazar added.
Neely died on May 1 after he was apprehended by former U.S. Marine Daniel Penny and two others after displaying erratic and threatening behaviour towards passengers on a New York City subway train.
Video footage posted online by freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez showed Penny pinning Neely down in a chokehold while waiting for authorities to arrive at the scene. The death of the 30-year old has been ruled a homicide.
Baltazar went on to say that Penny shouldn’t be punished for his actions to protect other members of the public.
Neely, a locally-known Michael Jackson impersonator who was reportedly suffered from worsening mental health, had a lengthy record of arrests, including trespassing and felony assault. He ended up in mental health care in 2021 for 15 months after punching a 67-year-old woman in the face.
Newsweek previously reported that, according to a New York City police spokesperson, Neely’s record shows 42 prior arrests, dating to between 2013 and 2021, including for alleged assault, accusations of transit fraud, and criminal trespass.
One warrant for an alleged assault in connection with a 2021 incident was reportedly still active at the time of Neely’s death.
Witnesses testified that after Neely boarded the F train on May 1, he started yelling at passengers, threatening to hurt people riding on the train, saying he was “ready to die,” according to the Daily Wire.
According to the video, he was then restrained by Penny, who took him to the ground, placing him in a chokehold.
At least two other passengers jumped in to assist Penny, after Neely kicked his legs to break free from the chokehold. Shortly after, some passengers can be heard asking for the police.
Penny is represented by attorneys at the Raiser and Kenniff, P.C. law firm, which released a statement on May 5 at Penny’s request, saying that he was only protecting himself and others without any intent to harm Neely, adding that he could have not have foreseen Neely’s untimely death.
“We would first like to express, on behalf of Daniel Penny, our condolences to those close to Mr. Neely,” the statement said. “Mr. Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness. When Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived. Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” according to the statement.
The statement goes on to say that for too long, those suffering from mental illness have been treated with indifference.
“We hope that out of this awful tragedy will come a new commitment by our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways,”the statement concludes.
According to the city’s medical examiner, Neely’s death resulted from compression of the neck and was subsequently classified as a homicide. Whether it will be treated as a criminal act is to be determined by the legal system.
The office of Manhattan’s District Attorney Alvin Bragg said it has launched an investigation into the tragic incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.