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What Jordan Neely’s Death Tells Us About Mental Illness and Vigilantism

On May 1, 2023, a 30-year-old homeless man named Jordan Neely boarded the F train in New York City. Neely appeared to be in the midst of some kind of…

On May 1, 2023, a 30-year-old homeless man named Jordan Neely boarded the F train in New York City. Neely appeared to be in the midst of some kind of mental health crisis, as witnesses describe him acting aggressively, screaming that he was hungry and thirsty and that he didn’t care if he went to jail or died. A few witnesses describe feeling threatened by Neely’s behavior. Soon, a 24-year-old man named Daniel Penny, who we later learned is a former Marine, jumped forward and put Neely in a chokehold. Minutes later, Neely was dead. 

Neely’s death once again stoked our culture wars and our debate about crime, homelessness, and mental illness in American cities. Was Jordan Neely a casualty of white supremacy? Was he another example of a criminal justice system that has stopped enforcing crime, thus encouraging people to take matters into their own hands? Was Jordan Neely a victim of a mental health system that has failed both its patients and society? How could we have prevented this tragedy? And how should we prevent it going forward? 

To dive into these questions and more, today on Honestly we have Rafael Mangual, Jonathan Rosen, and Kat Rosenfield. Mangual is a legal policy expert at the Manhattan Institute. Rosenfield is a novelist and a columnist for Unherd. And Rosen is the author of the book The Best Minds, which examines his childhood friendship with Michael Lauder, a graduate of Yale Law School who suffered a schizophrenic break and killed his pregnant fiancée. (You can check out our previous conversation with Rosen about that tragedy here.) 

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