The irony of Jordan Neely’s chokehold death at the hands of a so-called vigilante coming 16 years after his mother, Christie Neely, was fatally strangled and decapitated by her boyfriend, is not lost on anyone.
But that’s where the similarities end. Jordan allegedly died from a chokehold administered by an ex-U.S. Marine on a subway train in Manhattan. His mother died when her boyfriend strangled her, stuffed her body in a suitcase, and dumped it on Henry Hudson Parkway in Riverdale in 2007.
For Jordan, he never recovered from his mother’s murder at the hands of Shawn Southerland, since he was a key witness in the case. It has been reported by acquaintances of Jordan how the dancer and singer could not get his life straight as a teenager, and later as an adult. He spent time as a Michael Jackson impersonator and dancer in the New York City subway system.
Southerland was sentenced to 30 years for Christie Neely’s murder while no one has yet to be charged in Jordan Neely’s death despite there being a video recording by a freelance journalist now in evidence.
Jordan Neely was known to tell police he was a schizophrenic and sometimes was suicidal. However, he was arrested several times for mental health issues, according to the New York Post. But he never received any help.
The tragedy here is that Jordan Neely was a victim of the city’s inability to address the mental health needs of such people, even when they are crying out loud for help. It’s not an issue of racism where yet another white man kills another Black man. It’s a case of two troubling New York City issues coming together like a perfect storm on the F line on a Monday afternoon in Manhattan: fear of riding the subway vs. fear of going hungry and surviving for the city’s homeless.
Jordan was reportedly asking for food and suggested he wouldn’t mind being incarcerated instead of being homeless just before he was killed.
The tentativeness by the district attorney’s office to press charges against the so-called vigilante has only made the matter worse. That has led to protests on the streets and subway stop where the crime took place.
More importantly, it has politicized the case as Democrats lash out against the police, the mayor and DA’s office on the lack of charges a week after the incident.
Mayor Eric Adams responded to comments made by the city comptroller, Brad Lander, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that Jordan Neely was murdered.
“I don’t think that’s very responsible at the time where we are still investigating the situation,” Adams told CNN. “Let’s let the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do, and I’m going to be responsible and allow them to do their job.”
AOC went on to Tweet: “I have yet to hear a real explanation from any official hesitating to condemn the killing of Jordan Neely about what makes condemning this violence so ‘complicated.’ Killing is wrong. Killing the poor is wrong. Killing the mentally ill is wrong. Why is that so hard to say?”
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera was in lockstep.
“Like so many New Yorkers, I was appalled by the senseless murder of Mr. Jordan Neely,” Rivera said in a statement. “As I understand it, this was not the first time that Mr. Neely was at this station and in distress, yet emergency services had repeatedly failed to truly help him. His murderer must be held accountable.”
Probably the most poignant response is from Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator of North Bronx Racial Justice.
“Vigilante violence must not be condoned. Police violence must not be condoned. Systematic racial changes to our judicial systems and to our policies and treatment of those with mental health challenges are urgently needed.
“The criminalization of poverty and non-white bodies must end. We need non-carceral systems of public safety and harm reparation — systems that do not create and aggravate mental health challenges.”
Do you hear this, Mayor Adams? For a public official who had a New York Police Department badge, you should know better than supporting the apparent injustice here where the primary suspect in a very public murder was not even held. There are many people, mostly Black and brown, sitting in Rikers right now for lesser crimes.
Truly, Mr. Mayor, it comes across that you don’t seem to care too much about the life a homeless person who has only known a lifetime of trouble.