Who Doesn't Hate a Hero?
Bernie Goetz, Jonathan Pentland, Daniel Penny: when America embraced vigilante justice—and when it didn’t.
Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old college student and decorated Marine veteran, recently put belligerent homeless man Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on the New York subway. Witnesses described Neely’s behavior before the altercation as menacing. Prior to that, he had 42 arrests with a record ranging from alleged assault to accusations of transit fraud and criminal trespass. But Penny is white, and Neely died while black, so you can guess where this is going.
Penny has since surrendered to police to face a second-degree manslaughter charge. The Neely family wants a murder conviction. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass, a senior prosecutor who scored the felony conviction of the Trump Organization recently, is leading the investigation. “Several witnesses observed Mr. Neely making threats and scaring passengers,” he said during Penny’s arraignment.
Whatever the outcome of the case, Penny’s name has already been ruined. It’s a terrible story, and it reminds me of a similar incident two years ago in Columbia, South Carolina, involving a soldier, Jonathan Pentland. Together they illustrate how so many Americans have been convinced to hate men of action, especially when the culprits belong to protected groups.
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