NYC subway killing: bystanders share their stories of watching Daniel Penny choke Jordan Neely

Originally published at: NYC subway killing: bystanders share their stories of watching Daniel Penny choke Jordan Neely | Boing Boing


Part of the problem with labelling things as Bystander Effect is that the context and circumstances surrounding each situation are different and the reasons for not getting involved may depend on the individual. It takes the appearance of a mass decision not to intervene, when really it is multiple reasons, unique to the individual.

Indeed, there is recent research that shows bystanders will get involved in about 90% of situations, and that the likelihood of someone intervening increases with the number of people present.

Unfortunately the Bystander Effect ends up being a fig leaf that ignores the systemic issues that are at play - in this case the role that racism and toxic masculinity may have played in the entire situation. So maybe it wasn’t that passengers were desensitized to reality, maybe it was those systemic issues and others that led to people not intervening.


I’m not shocked that he is from Suffolk County. It is deep red for NY and composed of a lot of people who work in Manhattan, but also absolutely despise it (cops, firefighters, hedge fund managers, etc). In fact they are obsessed with NYC, hanging gaudy photos of the Brooklyn Bridge while also being absolutely terrified of the subway and public areas; pretty much anywhere that isn’t Macy’s, a Broadway Theater or MSG. I guarantee this guy walks around NYC muttering to himself how filthy and dangerous it is while just itching to put his training to use.

Source: Mrs Peas is from nearby and my in-laws (NYFD, gun nuts, trumpkins) live right next to Islip.


i can admit, i don’t have a great track record interrupting oppression and violence.

when something happens quickly, i’ve found it hard to get my brain in gear to understand what’s happening and to know what to do to make things better.

that this happened not in an instant but over time makes it much harder for me to understand. i can see bystanders not realizing death would be the result, but still… not doing anything at all seems… wrong.

i do think if someone living on the streets had choked a marine to death, that person would never see the light of day again. there’s no way the cops would have released him. same if the their races were reversed.

penny deserves to be charged and arrested. immediately.


FFS. This isn’t the by-standers’ fault. It is the stranglers fault.

Mr Peas, why did your parents call you Cannibal? Is it an old family name?


I was a good boy and ate my veggies. :wink:


I don’t care what they think; that was one of life’s morality tests and they all failed.

‘Bystander Effect’ is a misnomer that doesn’t even begin to cover many people’s general apathy for other people outside of themselves, or those experiencing paralyzing fear, or even worse, those who actually delight in watching violence happen to others.


None of his past crimes justified his murder. His most recent act of acting loud and aggressive doesn’t justify murder either.

Dude had him in a controlled position and could have kept him there until the cops came, but instead he continued to choke him out until he died.

He’s not a hero, he’s a goon.


it’s almost like we should be getting people housed and fed. :thinking: but i guess since we deny people that, there’s no middle ground. the only choice is their death.

that is a horrible take.


what you said is true. but he’s not goon, he’s a murderer.


Whataboutism doesn’t paly well with this community; just FYI.

Enjoy your visit, I guess…


In defense of the bystanders who didn’t do anything…

These situations are far less clear as they are happening then when you read about them after, and there’s also a powerful denial going on, like, “this can’t really be happening”.

At first, they said, they didn’t know which of the two men on the ground people were talking about. “It was confusing,” they said.

My advice to anyone seeing some extreme situation like this, either commit to intervening and do it, or physically get away from the situation and call 911. What most people did was a combination of gawking and not accepting the reality of what’s going on. Do accept reality and either get involved, or get away, but don’t do what most of them did, which is stand around and watch.

Edit: the linked article is really good insight into the mindset of the entire situation, something which might be hard for someone not living in a place like NYC to understand.

“They were desensitized to reality,” he said. “You get on the train, you don’t say nothing to nobody, … I don’t think the people were happy that the guy died, but they were definitely not on the homeless man’s side. … Everybody was contemplating, ‘How are we getting to work?’”

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One of the bystanders admitted that he didn’t jump in to help because he was scared of what Daniel Penny would do to him.

As an older woman who has ridden the subway system extensively in NYC and Chicago, I can tell you that I too would have been deathly afraid of anyone like Penny who would jump a homeless person and proceed to murder them in front of many witnesses using military training. Homeless people are simply not as dangerous as someone like this.


Yes, Real America™ is so much safer than those big, scary diverse cities. There’s nothing that symbolizes this more than the endless series of billboards about opioid and meth addiction you see in “the Heartland”. /s


Hard pass on hearing that as well; thanks.


Yep, lots of Blue Lives Matter flags around those parts.

Further out into Suffolk, the Hamptons especially, is more liberal.


Fight, flight, freeze. Enjoy your trauma, bystanders… it’ll live rent-free in your psyche for a while! People will moralize. Sympathetic ones won’t. But the rest will.

At least we get to have a conversation about who the right people to kill are and how to do a good job of watching them die! And god knows that’s important…


For sure - I think many people are genuinely caught by that. Our instincts of self preservation kick in first and foremost, but we also want to make sure we understand a situation before getting involved.

There are many reasons people may choose not to get involved, or choose TO get involved. When people don’t get involved, the Bystander Effect is invoked as if there was some kind of cloud of social paralysis that descended on the crowd and took away people’s reasoning and moral faculties, where in reality people were making their own assessments of the situation and coming to the same conclusions. The Bystander Effect is often used as evidence that urban environments are more hostile and impersonal, and therefore unsafe. Of course this is a gross simplification that only serves to reinforce urban-rural divides.

I am in no way defending Penny, but the passengers interviewed in the article seemed to be experiencing this same range of uncertainty or biases that were informing their personal decision making. There is evidence of genuine hesitancy from some individuals because they weren’t sure they could intervene, but also some who felt Neely had it coming. We also need to ask why Penny reacted the way he did when many others chose to ignore an aggressive panhandler.

And this doesn’t have to be viewed as a “woke”, vengeful, anti-liberty, anti-public safety thing to do. If you are involved with somebody’s death, then you should expect to be investigated. It’s all part of justice and due process. If there isn’t enough evidence to bring to trial, charges will be dropped. If there is, then the evidence around the situation should be considered in a court, and the judge or jury will weigh that and render a decision*. The longer authorities wait, the more time is allowed for speculation and media coverage to fill the vacuum and influence the court process.

*In an ideal world of course


Very true, though here’s the failure; the perp choked a man for 15 minutes - that’s a long ass time to go without screaming out “Stop!” or at least trying to call the police or get the train conductor’s attention.


Even in the dirtiest of street fights, people often jump in to prevent an unconscious person from sustaining any further punches. This trained marine cannot claim that he didn’t intend to cause any harm. A fifteen minute chokehold is strangulation, plain and simple. In most cases where a chokehold is used the one doing the choking releases as soon as he feels the person go limp. This guy is a murderer.