(NEW YORK) — Mildred Mahazu, the aunt of Jordan Neely, spoke exclusively in an interview with ABC News’ Byron Pitts about her nephew’s death after a former Marine placed him in a chokehold on a New York City subway train.
Neely, whose funeral is scheduled for Friday, was described by his aunt as a “diamond.”
“Jordan was a very, very sweet person,” Mahazu said in the interview that aired Friday. “He liked to be loved and he loved people. He was very, very, very friendly.”
She said she’s “not a judge,” but offered that Daniel Penny, the man who is charged in Neely’s death, “should be punished.”
“Why would you put your arm, your head around someone’s neck and choke him when you know you would die in less than 2 or 3 minutes? That means murder,” Mahazu said in the interview.
On May 1, Neely was on a Manhattan-bound F train making outbursts, according to what witnesses told investigators. He didn’t appear to threaten anyone specifically, according to witness accounts in court documents.
Penny, 24, engaged with Neely, allegedly put him in a chokehold and held him down for several minutes, according to investigators and bystander video of the incident. At least two other people are seen holding Neely down during the ordeal.
Neely was taken to a hospital and declared dead. The medical examiner would later rule Neely’s death a homicide.
Police sources told ABC News that Penny was not specifically being threatened by Neely when he intervened. Sources also added that Neely had not become violent and had not been threatening anyone in particular.
Neely had been previously arrested for several incidents on the subway, though it’s unclear how many, if any, led to convictions, sources close to the investigation told ABC News.
Although Penny was initially questioned by police, he was not arrested and was released later that night.
News of the incident sparked protests from New Yorkers and some leaders who called for Penny to be charged. On May 12, Penny turned himself in to the police as he was charged with second-degree manslaughter in Neely’s death.
He pleaded not guilty and was released on bond.
Penny’s attorneys have maintained their client never intended to kill Neely and was just trying to protect himself and others as Neely was allegedly threatening him.
“Mr. Neely had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness,” said the statement from the law firm of Raiser and Kenniff.
Penny’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 17. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
“He needs to make some time for that,” Mahazu said. “You don’t need to walk a free man.”
The other persons in the video holding down Neely have not been publicly identified or charged in connection with his death.
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