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Don’t fault Daniel Penny for trying to save others like the heroes on United Flight 93

On Sept. 11, 2001, after learning that two other hijacked planes had been crashed into the Twin Towers, passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 fought their hijackers in an attempt to save themselves and other Americans.

What Daniel Penny and two other F-train riders did to subdue a reportedly out-of-control Jordan Neely was no different.

The outcome aboard that F train on May 1 was equally tragic and something that shouldn’t have occurred despite repeated deadly encounters between subway riders and violent, mentally-ill homeless individuals (mostly men).

And it was with that knowledge in mind that Penny and the others took action.

Recollections of my own close calls with threatening people tempered my reaction to Penny using a headlock to subdue Neely.

It was the summer when I took a federal youth job at the City of Syracuse Department of Transportation.

It was a hot July day between my junior and senior semesters at Syracuse University, while on a break from demolishing a street island, I saw something reminiscent of a barroom scene in a Hollywood Western movie.

Another summer worker was shooting the business end of a jackhammer at the feet of a coworker and laughing as the petrified kid danced around.

After switching off the compressor and snatching the jack hammer away, the instigator charged me. I sidestepped the big idiot, put him in a headlock and fell to the ground with him.

Once he was subdued, we were separated. No one got hurt and we enjoyed a peaceful rest of the summer.

Jordan Neely died after being held in a deadly chokehold.

Jordan Neely
Penny was charged with one count of manslaughter in the second degree for killing Neely.

Last year, I wrote two columns describing my encounter with a ranting, knife-wielding, homeless emotionally disturbed person aboard a Bronx 6 train and the aftermath of his arrest.

My wife and I encountered a 30-something disheveled and barefoot man, later identified by police as Johnathan Gonzalez, threatening an older rider with a blade.

He threatened to cut the other passenger’s throat, dared anyone to stop him and ranted about not caring if he went to Rikers.

Gonzalez’s rant wasn’t unlike what witnesses ascribed to Jordan Neely at the time of his F-train meltdown.

Fortunately, I drew his attention long enough for his target to get away. After exiting the train, I called 911 and NYPD cops arrested him a few stops later.

On April 28, Gonzalez was released from Rikers after taking a guilty plea last year. I can only assume that he’s back on the street.

It might have been a different outcome had Gonzalez tried to make good on his threats to “cut” someone. Would I have been subject to arrest if, in self-defense, I had harmed him?

Can’t rule out weapons

Given that vulnerable street people are targets of street thugs, it’s reasonable to assume that they’re armed with a weapon — whether one is visible or not.

Not an unreasonable assumption for Penny and the other F-train riders.

The warning signs have been there for Mayor Adams, pandering elected officials and the outrage mob to see.

daniel penny
Many people believe Penny was trying to calm down the situtation.
Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

Back in October 2019, Rodriguez “Randy” Santos, an unhinged 24-year-old drifter, was arrested for bludgeoning four sleeping homeless men to death and badly injuring two others in separate unprovoked Chinatown attacks.

After that horrific attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio dispatched homeless outreach workers and beefed up police patrols in Chinatown.

“Nothing will change. You’re still going to have berserkers out here walking around hungry,” said a homeless acquaintance of Santos and the victims.

In the intervening 1,304 days, many more innocent people minding their own business have been set upon by violent, hungry, homeless berserkers.

  • A mentally-ill homeless man pushed Michelle Go to her death off a Times Square subway platform in January 2022
  • EMS Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, an FDNY paramedic, was fatally stabbed in a senseless and unprovoked attack by madman in Queens in October 2022.
  • Waheed Foster, an ex-con vagrant, savagely pummeled a Queens mom at a Jamaica subway station in September 2022.
  • In November 2020, in a vicious and unprovoked attack, a commuter on her way to work was shoved pushed into the path of an oncoming train at Union Square station. Her attacker was another mentally-ill homeless man.

Yet there were no protest marches, rallies or acts of civil disobedience calling for justice on behalf of these victims of subway madmen and boulevard berserkers.

Daniel Penny
Penny leaves the Criminal Court of Manhattan after his arraignment.
Getty Images/Stephanie Keith

But when a young unarmed Marine Corps veteran steps forward believing he is protecting his fellow subway riders by taking control of a perceived threat, he’s called a “murderer” by far-left vigilantes.

The only difference between Daniel Penny and the heroic passengers aboard United 93 is he’s been charged with manslaughter by a usually soft-on-crime Manhattan DA.

I pray that Daniel Penny isn’t doomed.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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