In a series of recordings published by his attorneys on Sunday, Penny, 24, recalled the circumstances leading up to his incident with Neely, 30, onboard the northbound F train on May 21.
The man stumbled on, he looked to be on drugs, the doors closed, and he ripped his jacket off and threw it down at the people sitting next to me on my left, Penny said.
The 24-year-old described the encounter as a “scary situation,” adding that he overheard Neely making threats onboard the train.
He was listening to music at the time, and took out his headphones to hear what he was screaming, the East Village resident said. The three primary threats he repeated over and over were, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ‘I’m willing to go to jail for life,’ and ‘I’m willing to die.’
Although he was taller than Neely, the former Marine claimed he was unable to just sit still after hearing Neely threaten the other passengers.
There’s a common misunderstanding that Marines don’t get frightened, he said. They’re actually taught that being brave is one of their most important principles, and bravery is not the absence of fear, but how one deals with it. He was terrified for himself, but as he glanced around, he saw women and children, and he was roaring in their faces, threatening them. He couldn’t sit still.
Penny said that he acted quickly to detain Neely with a chokehold, which was recorded on film, with no intention of suffocating Neely to death.
Some people say he held Mr. Neely for 15 minutes, Penny said. This is not correct; the time between stops is only a few minutes. So the whole exchange lasted less than 5 minutes.
Some believe he was attempting to choke Neely to death, which is also false since he was attempting to restrain him, Penny said. One can see a clear rise and fall of his chest in the video, suggesting that he’s breathing. He is attempting to prevent him from carrying out the threats.
Penny is charged with manslaughter in Neely’s death. A medical examiner determined that Neely died as a result of “compression of the neck.”
Because Penny is white and Neely is black, the killing of Neely sparked significant demonstrations around the city, with many activists and even politicians labeling Penny a “murderer” and a bigot.
Penny told last week that being labeled as a racist undoubtedly hurts a lot and has “taken a toll” on him.
Penny disputed that race played a part in his conduct in Sunday’s recordings, calling the charges completely absurd.
Penny said he didn’t see a black man threatening passengers; he saw a man threatening passengers, a lot of whom were individuals of other colors. The man who assisted in the restraint of Mr. Neely was a person of color. He reads in the newspaper a few days after the event that a lady of color had come out and dubbed him a hero.
Penny said that he does not consider himself a hero and that he was just attempting to safeguard others on the train.
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