Daniel Penny, a Marine veteran, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter for fatally choking an erratic homeless man on a New York City subway train earlier this month. But one of the passengers on the train that day has come to his defense, calling him a "hero" and slamming Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for prosecuting him.
The passenger, who has lived in New York City for more than 50 years and asked to remain anonymous, witnessed the altercation between Penny and 30-year-old Jordan Neely. She told Fox News Digital that Neely had stormed onto the northbound F train at about 2:30 p.m. May 1, screaming and threatening passengers.
"I’m sitting on a train reading my book, and, all of a sudden, I hear someone spewing this rhetoric. He said, ‘I don’t care if I have to kill an F, I will. I’ll go to jail, I’ll take a bullet,’" she recalled.
The terrified passengers crowded toward the exit doors, prompting Penny to intervene.
"Why in the world would you take a bullet? Why? You don’t take a bullet because you’ve snatched something from somebody’s hand. You take a bullet for violence," she added.
The witness said it was clear to her that Penny waited until the last minute to intervene for the sake of his fellow passengers. She heard a thump when he dragged Neely to the ground but couldn’t see clearly until the doors opened at the Broadway-Lafayette station and most of the passengers exited.
Two men, who have not been publicly identified, helped hold down Neely’s arms during the altercation.
"It took three men to hold Mr. Neely down. He was struggling," the witness said.
After widespread protests erupted across the city, with many demonstrators and even politicians calling Penny a "murderer," Bragg charged him with second-degree manslaughter. At Penny’s arraignment Friday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said the Marine veteran had continued to hold Neely for a "period of time" after the man had stopped moving. But Penny, he noted, had remained on the train and accompanied police to the precinct to voluntarily answer questions.
The witness said the narrative that has emerged has become about race — a White man who fatally choked a Black man — instead of about people of all colors who were "very, very afraid" and one man who stepped in to help them.
She said the problems facing New York City — such as failed policies that don’t help the mentally ill and criminal justice reforms that don’t hold people who commit crimes accountable — are now plaguing the U.S.
"It’s not looking that good for us," she said. "You know, we were supposed to be an example to other nations but are turning into a Third World country."
She expressed sympathy for Neely, who clearly had a tragic life and suffered from mental illness, but said Penny is the victim in this case.
"Mr. Penny cared for people. That’s what he did. That is his crime," she told Fox News Digital.
Penny is free on $100,000 bond and is due back in court July 17. His legal defense fund has raised more than $2.5 million.
"I hope that they raise more because it’s going to cost a pretty penny, no pun intended, to get this young man justice," the witness said.