Jordan Neely Will Be Mourned at Funeral in Harlem
Jordan Neely spent the last few weeks of his life riding the subways of New York, hungry, desperate and alone.
At his funeral on Friday, which will be held at 11 a.m. at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, friends and family members will gather to mourn him. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy.
The May 1 killing of Mr. Neely, who the police said had been acting in a “hostile and erratic manner” on an F train before another subway rider placed him in a chokehold for several minutes, quickly divided political leaders and led to protests around the city.
It has sparked debate around the country between those who believe the man who killed Mr. Neely, Daniel Penny, responded with violent vigilantism to a person who needed help, and to those who believed he acted because he was trying to stop a threat. And it has raised questions about safety on the subway and the care provided to homeless and mentally ill people living in the city.
Mr. Penny has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. His lawyers have said he was trying to protect himself and others who were on the train when Mr. Neely boarded it and began yelling at the passengers. An online fund-raiser for his legal defense amassed more than $2.6 million in donations after it was promoted by conservative politicians.
The chokehold was captured in a four-minute video, but many questions still remain about what took place before the video began. Witnesses told the police that Mr. Neely had shouted that he was hungry, thirsty and “ready to die.” There has been no indication that he physically attacked anyone.
In his teens and early 20s, Mr. Neely was a fixture in Times Square and on the subway, where he impersonated Michael Jackson, donning a red and black leather jacket and pants reminiscent of the singer’s Thriller era.
Friends recalled him as a talented dancer who adored performing in front of subway riders and mystified tourists.
But in recent years, his family said, he was struggling with mental illness and addiction, problems that were set off by the murder of his mother, Christie Neely, when he was 14.
She was living with her mother and her boyfriend in an apartment in Bayonne, NJ, when she disappeared in 2007. Her body was later found stuffed in a suitcase in the Bronx. She had been strangled; her boyfriend was charged with murder and Mr. Neely was called to testify during his trial.
He dropped out of Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. He remained close to his aunt, Carolyn Neely, who urged him to move to upstate New York with her when she left the city earlier this year.
He refused, according to lawyers for his family.
Mr. Neely became well known to the social work teams that reach out to homeless people on the subways, according to an employee of the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a nonprofit organization that does such outreach.
He was arrested dozens of times, mostly for transgressions like turnstile-jumping or trespassing. But at least four arrests were on charges of punching people, including in the subway system.
Mr. Neely was placed on what outreach workers refer to as the “Top 50” list — a roster maintained by the city of homeless people whom officials consider most urgently in need of assistance and treatment.
His funeral on Friday will be led by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, who presided over the funeral of Mr. Neely’s mother in 2007.