The homeless man who was choked to death by a subway straphanger this week had more than a dozen run-ins with police due to his mental health issues — part of a lengthy history of instability that was tragically never remedied.
In some instances, Jordan Neely told cops he was schizophrenic and hadn’t taken his meds.
Other times, the 30-year-old complained to officers of stomach pains or told them he was suicidal, police sources said.
He had accepted help from the Bowery Residents’ Committee, via the NYC Department of Homeless Services, at times through at least 2020, the sources said.
But one thing is clear: Neely never got the help he so desperately needed.
The final portrait of that failure was a photo of the strangled man, lying on his side in dirty sweats and a stained white t-shirt, passed out on a subway floor after a straphanger placed him in a chokehold when he went on an aggressive rant in the train car Monday afternoon.
“As his aunt, as his blood, I was crying out for medical help for my nephew — but everything was about insurance,” his aunt, Carolyn Neely, told The Post.
“Doctors knew his condition, he needed to be treated … He wasn’t a bad person,” she continued, adding that Neely was in and out of Bellevue Hospital.
“He just needed better help from doctors who did not give him help when I asked,” she said. “I was really frustrated. I didn’t know what to do anymore.”
Neely — who sank into a deep depression after his stepfather brutally murdered his mom in 2007 — began crossing paths with cops in earnest about six years later, police sources said. He was known as a troubled street person who hung around lower Manhattan — especially around East Houston — but he turned up in Harlem, Queens and Brooklyn as well.
On the afternoon of Jan. 24, 2013 for instance, cops found Neely on West 145th Street in Manhattan complaining that his body was numb and he was hearing voices. He voluntarily went to Mount Sinai Morningside for treatment, police sources said.
But he appeared to worsen in the following years.
On Jan. 14, 2016, sources said cops brought him to the hospital when he said he was suicidal. Eight months later, authorities again escorted him to the hospital after they got several complaints of an irate, intoxicated man threatening others around West 168th Street.
By 2018, police were seeing Neely frequently — four times in February and twice in March, sources said. Sometimes they brought him to the hospital or a shelter. Sometimes he refused to go.
NYC subway choking victim Jordan Neely: What we know
When: May 1, 2023
Who: Jordan Neely, 30, a homeless man was fatally strangled aboard a northbound F train just before 2:30 p.m., according to police.
He reportedly started acting erratically on the train and harassing other passengers before being restrained and ultimately choked by a straphanger, identified as a 24-year-old marine from Queens.
The marine, who was seen on video applying the chokehold, was taken into custody and later released but the DA is mulling charges, which could include involuntary manslaughter, according to experts.
Fallout: The city medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide, noting he died due to “compression of neck (chokehold).” This will be weighed during the investigation into whether charges will be brought for Neely’s death.
Neely’s aunt told The Post that he became a “complete mess” following the brutal murder of his mother in 2007. She noted he was schizophrenic while suffering from PTSD and depression.
“The whole system just failed him. He fell through the cracks of the system,” Carolyn Neely said.
Law enforcement sources said Neely had “numerous” arrests on his record, including for drugs, disorderly conduct, and fare beating.
At the time of his death, Neely had a warrant out for his arrest for a November 2021 case where he was accused of assaulting a 67-year-old woman in the East Village, the sources said.
Mayor Eric Adams has said it’s important for the DA to complete the investigation into Neely’s death and not rush to conclusions.
That July, cops took him to the hospital after he threatened the conductor and scared passengers on a train that had left the 207th Street station, sources said.
A series of near-monthly calls followed for the rest of the year. In February 2019, he told the cops that he wanted psychiatric help because he was hearing voices, sources said.
A member of the Citywide Mobile Crisis Outreach Team saw him wandering aimlessly on a train platform around Norfolk Street on March 12, 2020. He was disheveled and smelled, police sources said, and he’d been off his meds for months.
He was brought to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, though it’s not clear what happened after.
The crisis team found him four more times more during the height of the COVID pandemic, once in April 2020 and three times in May. The team encouraged Neely to use the city’s homeless services, but he appears to have rarely stayed in a hospital or shelter for very long.
Cops continued to engage over the next year with the homeless Neely, who often mentioned that he was schizophrenic, had ADHD and was sometimes suicidal.
With about 43 calls for an “aided case” — meaning someone sick, injured or mentally ill — tied to him, Neely would likely have been on the radar of B-HEARD, the city’s Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division. But the unit, which responds to mental health crises instead of the police, doesn’t operate in Manhattan yet.
The piecemeal response frustrated Councilman Robert Holden, who represents the city’s 30th District in Queens.
“Nobody seems to be in charge of like, looking at the arrests,” Holden told The Post. “If you keep arresting him, and he keeps getting let go without getting treatment, this is going to continue to happen. We’re gonna get more of these.”
Neely also had numerous arrests on his rap sheet, the most recent in 2021, when he socked an older woman in the head, severely injuring her and landing himself in jail for more than a year, sources said.
The 67-year-old woman fell when she was punched Nov. 12, 2021 and broke her nose, fractured her orbital bone and endured “bruising, swelling and substantial pain to the back of her head,” according to charging documents.
Neely appears to have been locked up on Rikers Island from Nov. 17, 2021 until Feb. 9 of this year, when he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, according to court officials and police sources. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Feb. 23 — though details on why and how the case unfolded were not immediately available.
Neely often stayed with his grandparents when he wasn’t on the streets, said James Berry, who lived next to the family in Washington Heights.
But it was a tumultuous relationship, fraught with arguments, drug use and death threats, police sources said.
His grandmother told police in 2009 that Neely wouldn’t listen to them, cut school constantly and hung out with an older crowd.
“Jordan is a sweet kid, but he is very hard-headed,” she told authorities. “He will not listen to me or his grandfather … We don’t want him to get in trouble. He’s not a bad person … we hope Jordan can be helped in some way and start acting responsible.”
In 2010, he threatened to kill his grandfather, according to sources.
“They wouldn’t let him inside sometimes at night because they were afraid of him,” Berry told The Post. “I never saw him violent myself, but I saw him sleeping in the hallway in front of the [grandparent’s] door a lot.”
“My wife would fix him a plate of food sometimes, and I’d give him a couple dollars,” Berry said. “There was something a little mentally off about him, but we all knew what happened to his mother. It’s a sad situation.”
“Jordan didn’t deserve to die,” Berry said. “I hope some justice comes out of this situation.”
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy and Jack Morphet