Criminal charges weighed against Marine in chokehold death of Jordan Neely as NYPD and Manhattan DA confer

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NYPD detectives and Manhattan prosecutors conferred Thursday over possible criminal charges against a Marine veteran as new details emerged in the caught-on-camera chokehold death of Jordan Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator with a history of mental illness, police sources said.

The city Medical Examiner determined Wednesday that Neely, 30, died from compressions to the neck during the Monday afternoon clash with the 24-year-old Marine on a Manhattan F train. The death was deemed a homicide, paving the way for the possible criminal charges.

The DA’s office is weighing if the case should go to a grand jury to determine if charges should be brought. As authorities continued to investigate, a war of words erupted between city political leaders, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling Neely’s death a “public murder” and Mayor Adams blasting such talk as “irresponsible.”

What actually happened inside the F train remains a key focus of the debate — and new details emerged Thursday on the moments leading up to the lethal clash and on Neely’s criminal and mental health history. He was a familiar sight around town, performing in Times Square and on subways before falling on hard times and becoming homeless.

The performer boarded the uptown train at the Second Ave. station in the Bowery, police sources said Thursday. On the train, witnesses saw him pacing back and forth and acting erratic, as if he was about to turn violent, a police source said.

Freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, who was riding aboard the train and took viral video of the lethal confrontation, recounted in a Spanish-language Facebook post Neely’s words after entering the car.

“I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,” declared Neely. “I don’t mind if I go to jail and (get) life in prison ... I’m ready to die.”

Neely “didn’t seem like he wanted to hurt anyone,” Vazquez wrote.

But five passengers called 911 before and during Neely’s fight with the Marine, a police source said Thursday.

Callers said Neely was making threats and “harassing people,” the source said. One caller incorrectly said Neely had a “knife or a gun.” Another said he was “attacking people.”

Other callers reported the Marine was restraining Neely until police could get there. The source added Neely had told passengers he wanted to hit someone.

The Marine put the victim in a chokehold, with the video of the confrontation showing the military man with his left arm around Neely’s neck as they struggled on the floor of the train as it entered the Broadway-Lafayette St. stop.

A second man helped restrain Neely, who turned on his side and continued kicking his legs until he finally stopped moving about two minutes into the chilling video.

Medics took Neely to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he died.

No weapons were found on Neely and the Marine was uninjured in the clash. The NYPD on Thursday called for additional witnesses to come forward to provide a better sense of how the incident unfolded.

Neely had a documented mental health history. Over the years, cops answered more than a dozen calls about Neely acting out. He suffered from schizophrenia and had told cops he heard voices, police said.

The last time cops had Neely hospitalized for psychological evaluation was in February 2021.

Neely was arrested 42 times across the last decade, with his most recent bust in November 2021 for slugging a 67-year-old female stranger in the face as she exited a subway station in the East Village, cops said.

The senior citizen suffered a broken nose and fractured orbital bone when she was knocked to the sidewalk, along with swelling and “substantial” head pain after hitting the ground.

Neely eventually pleaded to felony assault and received 15 months in an alternative-to-incarceration program that, if completed, would have allowed him to plead to misdemeanor assault and get a conditional discharge.

But a warrant was issued for his arrest on Feb. 23, when he skipped a court compliance court date where a judge was to be updated on whether he was meeting all the requirements of the program.

On June 27, 2019, Neely was arrested for punching a 64-year-old man in the face during a fight in a Greenwich Village subway station, cops said.

And he was busted in August 2015 for attempted kidnapping after he was seen dragging a 7-year-old girl down an Inwood street. He pled guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced to four months in jail.

Most of his other arrests were for low-level crimes, many of them for turnstile jumping.

Neely “just wasn’t the same anymore” after his mother, Christie Neely, was strangled by her boyfriend in New Jersey in 2007, his father Andre Zachery, 59, told the Daily News in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

After her death, which came when Neely was just 14, his mental health declined and he refused to take his prescribed medications. His autism made it difficult for him to find steady work after he dropped out of high school. Despite his hardships, Neely found a passion in impersonating the King of Pop.

”He really perfected that,” his father said. “I don’t know how he did it! I was proud of him for doing that.”

The Marine was taken in for questioning but released Monday night after police discussed the case with the DA’s office. At the time, prosecutors had not seen the video and told police that no charges could be filed until Neely’s cause of death was determined.

New details emerged Thursday on the Marine’s decorated military service.

He served in the corps for four years starting in 2017, rising to the rank of sergeant. During his tour of duty, he received accolades including medals for good conduct, humanitarian and national defense service and service in the global war on terrorism. He served as a rifleman in the Mediterranean and his last assignment was at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Marine Corps officials said.

“I’m not answering any questions,” the Marine told the Daily News on Tuesday. “I appreciate it, but I’m not answering any questions.”

Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday likened the Marine’s actions to that of infamous subway gunman Bernie Goetz, recalling the shooting of four Black youths on a train beneath Manhattan just before Christmas in 1984.

“We cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable,” he said.

On Thursday, activists gathered outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office to demand an arrest.

One protester, Lady Jay Lee, 40, of Flatbush, Brooklyn, said she recognized Neely from the trains.

“I got the chills ... It’s mind-boggling,” she said. “You think about someone like him and it happening to him and it leaves you baffled because it says, who’s going to be next?”

“No more killing with impunity,” Gladys Shahtou, 32, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, said of the Marine. “He needs to be arrested he needs to be charged ... You can’t just take justice into your own hands.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said in a Wednesday statement the investigation into Neely’s death was a “solemn and serious matter” and that they were reviewing all the evidence.

The NYPD’s “first priority is always to seek justice,” police officials said in a Thursday statement.

“As part of the ongoing investigation into this tragic incident, NYPD detectives are actively reviewing footage and all other available information. The NYPD continues to work closely with investigators at the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney,” the statement read.

Police asked anyone on the train who witnessed the clash to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

With Emma Seiwell, Janon Fisher and Nicholas Williams