TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for Daniel Penny, the Marine charged in the chokehold death of Jordan Neely, in a tweet Friday.
“We must defeat the Soros-Funded DAs, stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens,” DeSantis wrote in a tweet with a fundraiser for Penny’s legal funds. “We stand with Good Samaritans like Daniel Penny. Let’s show this Marine… America’s got his back.”
Penny caused national outrage after he put Neely, a Michael Jackson impersonator who had been dealing with mental health issues and homelessness, in a chokehold for about 15 minutes on a New York City subway, according to a witness that spoke to NBC New York.
Nexstar affiliate WPIX reported that a medical examiner determined that Neely’s death was a homicide caused by compression of the neck from the chokehold.
Protests began after officers let Penny go Monday without any charges. Penny and his attorneys said the defendant acted in self-defense.
“Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” said his lawyers, Thomas Kenniff and Steven Raiser.
Court records did show that Neely had an extensive arrest record — including attacks on the subway system, according to Fox News.
However, Neely’s family said while he was behaving erratically, he was not attacking anyone at the moment.
“Mr. Neely did not attack anyone. He did not touch anyone. He did not hit anyone. But he was choked to death.” said Done Mills, an attorney for Neely’s family. ” [Penny] acted with indifference. He didn’t care about Jordan, he cared about himself. And we can’t let that stand.”
A video showing the chokehold incident also showed a witness warning Penny to let Neely go or he could kill him.
“You gonna kill him now…I’m tellin’ you,” the witness said in the video.
One New York City official condemned Penny’s actions as vigilante justice.
“NYC is not Gotham,” Comptroller Brad Lander said. “We must not become a city where a mentally ill human being can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence. Or where the killer is justified & cheered.”
Others condemned both the state and city of New York’s inability to care for its homeless population.
DeSantis’ tweet sparked controversy, with some lauding the governor for standing with Penny and others attacking him for supporting what they called vigilante violence.
Other Twitter users questioned DeSantis’ use of the term “Soros-funded” as a potentially antisemitic dog whistle.
According to the American Jewish Committee, it is not antisemitic to criticize George Soros, a billionaire Jewish philanthropist known for donating to liberal causes, for his political actions. However, the AJC did say it can be antisemitic to use him as “a symbol for Jewish control, wealth, and power.”