‘He liked to be loved and he loved people’: Jordan Neely’s funeral honors 30-year-old’s life

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A hush came over Mt. Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem as a choir sang a four-part harmony during their rendition of “People Get Ready,” a song composed in 1965, the year following the March on Washington and President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

In front of the singers was a congregation mourning the loss of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old man who died on May 1, after Daniel Penny, an ex-Marine, placed him in a chokehold on a Manhattan subway train.

Following his death, demonstrators took to the streets in protest, with some jumping onto subway tracks and shutting down intersections, resulting in the arrests of multiple people.

Penny, 24, has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter. His attorneys have previously said that their client didn’t intend to harm Neely and “could not have foreseen his untimely death.”

Hundreds of people came to the church Friday to pay their respects and express their condolences.

Attendees included Dr. Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered Neely’s eulogy, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado and Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, a group of teenaged boys wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in 1989.

Sr. Pastor Johnnie M. Green, Jr. conducted the ceremony. He previously led the funeral service for Neely’s mother, Christine Neely, after she was killed in 2007.

During his address, Sharpton vowed to continue fighting for people struggling with homelessness and mental health difficulties.

Until change happens, Sharpton said, “There will be no justice, there will be no peace,” leading the crowd to erupt into chants of “No justice! No peace!”

Sharpton took issue with Penny being described as a good samaritan by some, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who encouraged his Twitter followers to donate to Penny’s legal defense fund last week. The fund has garnered over $2.6 million in donations.

“A good samaritan helps those in trouble,” Sharpton said. “They don’t choke them out.”

The reverend also criticized officials for releasing Penny from custody the night of Neely’s death, after officials questioned him about the incident.

Neely spent most of his late teens and early 20s imitating Michael Jackson to the amusement of tourists and subway commuters, before a lack of housing and mental health issues took over his life.

Mildred Mahazu, his great-aunt, spoke during Friday’s ceremony, but her comments were brief.

In an interview with ABC News, she described her nephew as a “very, very sweet person.”

“He liked to be loved and he loved people.”

When asked what justice looks like for her family, Mahazu appeared unsure, though she stated that she believes Penny should “make some time” for his actions.

“He don’t need to walk a free man,” she continued.

“Why would you put your hand around someone’s neck and choke them when you know they would die in less than two to three minutes?” she asked.

“That means murder.”

After the ceremony, family members made their way to Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County, N.Y. for a private burial service.

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