On May 4 2023, Spectrum News reporter Kate Cagle tweeted a quote attributed to New York’s governor Kathy Hochul (D) on the topic of the subway vigilante killing of Jordan Neely in New York City:
Jordan Neely was killed on May 1 2022 by a fellow passenger on the F train in Manhattan. News coverage of the incident as of May 4 was still scattered, but a Wikipedia entry (“Death of Jordan Neely”) provided a summary of the incident:
On May 1, 2023, Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old African American man, was killed by an unnamed white 24-year-old Marine while riding the F Train in New York City. According to witnesses, Neely was acting in a “hostile and erratic” manner, and yelled that he was hungry and thirsty, stating, “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up” and “I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die.” Despite his complaints, Neely did not physically attack anyone. The Marine tackled Neely, placing him in a chokehold until Neely was unconscious. According to some sources, when attempts were made to revive him inside the subway car Neely was already dead. Neely was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police questioned the unnamed man, but he was released without charges.
Wikipedia indicated Neely’s death was “recorded on video by a witness, freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez.” On May 4 2023, several news organizations reported that Neely’s death was ruled a homicide:
Jordan Neely, 30, died [on May 1 2023] due to “compression of neck (chokehold),” a spokesperson for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said. The manner of death was ruled a homicide .. the spokesperson said.
“This is a solemn and serious matter that ended in the tragic loss of Jordan Neely’s life,” Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Doug Cohen said in a statement. “As part of our rigorous ongoing investigation, we will review the Medical Examiner’s report, assess all available video and photo footage, identify and interview as many witnesses as possible, and obtain additional medical records.”
All three posts included screenshots from a May 3 2023 Spectrum News (NY1) article, updated on May 4 2023. Hochul was quoted in a section featuring comments from subway riders:
David Jimenez likened it to unnecessary vigilante justice.
“I think it’s terrible. Someone lost their life. I don’t think we need vigilantes on the subway,” Jimenez said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul also weighed in.
“People who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the throes of mental health episodes, and that’s what I believe were some of the factors involved here. There’s consequences for behavior,” [Hochul] said.
As Hochul’s statement circulated, New York-based editor Peter Sterne tweeted a slightly longer version of the quote:
In two follow-up tweets, Sterne added:
The quote really is ambiguous. You can read it as “I believe [mental health issues] are some of the factors here. There are consequences for behavior” (referring to Neely) or “There are consequences for behavior. I’ll see if the state has a role” (referring to the ex-Marine)
The bottom line is that it’s a bad statement. If a homeless man is killed and you release a statement so vague that it can be interpreted as justifying the murder (even if that’s not your intent), it’s a sign you don’t fully recognize his humanity and dignity.
Reporter Katie Honan responded to the thread, adding that Hochul had declined to clarify the “consequences for behavior” statement when asked:
Sterne’s screenshot originated with a CBS News article quoting Hochul:
While there are surveillance cameras on some subway cars, we’re told there were not any on this one.
“One element we haven’t talked about is the billion dollar investment in mental health services so we don’t have people who are homeless in our subways, many of them in the [throes] of mental health episodes. And that’s what I believe are some of the factors here,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “There are consequences for behavior. I will look at it more closely to find out whether the state has a role.”
“That was deeply disturbing, and that causes a lot of fear for people, and actually the mayor and I are working so hard to restore that sense of safety. We have cameras on the subway, more police officers, were assisting with overtime. We have been doing so much and the numbers are improving. The number of crimes on subways is declining and I don’t want people to feel anxious again when something like that comes to light. It was deeply disturbing,” she added.
The Marine Corps denied comment on this investigation.
On May 4 2023, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted a transcribed exchange between Hochul and reporters:
In the first part of the screenshot, Hochul reiterated her statement about consequences, saying:
Before we get started answering your questions, I do want to acknowledge how horrific it was to view a video of Jordan Neely being killed for being a passenger on the subway trains. And so our hearts go out to his families. I’m really pleased that the district attorney is looking into this matter. As I said, there had to be consequences, and so we’ll see how this unfolds, but his family deserves justice.
Hochul’s hesitancy to plainly condemn the homicide stood in stark contrast with the statements of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-New York). On May 3 and 4 2023, Rep. Ocasio–Cortez called nebulous statements “disgusting” and “a new low,” and clearly articulated that Neely “was murdered”:
In the immediate aftermath of the death of Jordan Neely, New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul made a vague statement: “There’s consequences for behavior.” Hochul’s statement was widely interpreted to be referencing the behavior of the victim (Neely), not the individual who killed him. Hochul declined to clarify her statement to at least one reporter or news organization. During a May 4 2023 press conference, Hochul again referenced “consequences,” tacking on a half-sentence about his family deserving “justice.”