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There have been no arrests after an NYC subway commuter killed a Black man on a train

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

There have been no arrests following the death of Jordan Neely on Monday in New York City. Neely was a homeless man who was Black. He was killed on a subway train by a commuter, a white man, who put Neely in a chokehold. The city's medical examiner called the death a homicide. NPR's Brian Mann is following. Hi, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Sacha.

PFEIFFER: Do we know what happened that led to this?

MANN: There's a lot here that we don't know yet. Part of this incident was captured on video by another commuter on Monday. You can see a white man who has not been identified by the police holding Neely tightly around the neck. Two other individuals appear to help restrain Neely while other commuters look on. The medical examiner says compression of the neck was the cause of death, but this video doesn't show what happened that led up to the incident. The man who recorded the video told media that Neely was shouting that he was hungry and ready to die. But, again, the video doesn't capture any of that. Police did detain a man involved in this incident and questioned him before letting him go.

PFEIFFER: There was a protest last night in a subway station and another one planned for today. What's the message of the protesters?

MANN: Well, you know, Sacha, statistically, New York is one of the safest cities in the U.S., but Jordan Neely's death comes in the midst of this really tense and complicated debate over crime and race, homelessness and mental illness. And what's happening here is some people are angry that a Black man was killed in public - in plain sight - and no one's been arrested. Here's the sound of a protest yesterday in the Broadway-Lafayette subway station recorded by WNYC Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Justice for...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Jordan Neely.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Justice for...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Jordan Neely.

MANN: They're chanting, justice for Jordan Neely there.

New York City congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Neely's death was a murder. She blasted New York City police for not charging anyone. She wrote that Jordan was houseless and crying for food. New York City Council President Adrienne Adams also issued a statement, saying Neely's killing and the law enforcement response reflect, and I'm quoting here, "racism that continues to permeate throughout our society."

PFEIFFER: Brian, New York City's mayor is a Democrat. He's also a former police officer, and he's framed this differently. What is he saying?

MANN: Yeah, that's right. Mayor Eric Adams issued a statement, saying his administration is working to make the subway system safer. He's launched a major push, amid some controversy, to get people with mental illness off the streets, out of train stations. And since Monday, he's actually criticized other politicians for, as he describes it, rushing to judgment on what triggered this deadly encounter between another commuter and Neely. Here's Adams speaking on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC ADAMS: I was a former transit police officer, and I responded to many jobs where you had a passenger assisting someone. And so we cannot just blanketly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that. We should allow the investigation to take its course.

MANN: And the question, legally, going forward is whether Neely did anything to justify this use of force by the other commuter. There are now two investigations underway - one by the NYPD, another by the Manhattan district attorney. The DA's office issued a statement, saying they plan to interview every witness and look at this video frame by frame.

PFEIFFER: Brian, as we've said, we know that Jordan Neely was homeless. What more do we know about him?

MANN: Yeah, it's sad. Neely was 30 years old. He had a history of repeated arrests and apparently had been unhoused for some time. He used to be a recognized figure on the city's subway system. He would dress like Michael Jackson, and there are videos, heartbreaking now to watch, of him dancing and performing to earn money. The press accounts describe a struggle with mental illness, which NPR could not confirm. Now he's dead. And people are asking, how come vulnerable people - people like Jordan Neely - are not getting help before incidents like this happen?

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Brian Mann. Brian, thank you for telling us about this.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.