Commentary: Chokeholds and guns usually cause bad outcomes. They did this time too.

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Chokeholds and guns usually cause bad outcomes. They  did this time too.
May 16
05:41 2023

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Have compassion and sensitivity gone out of the window? Have they been replaced by extreme thinking and extreme action? Is our immediate reaction to a situation to fatally harm someone that will result in death? 

Some would say we have become a society that is quick to kill.

We rise each day to start afresh and anew. We encourage ourselves and often get encouragement from others. Yet sometime during our day of hope, we hear about someone or a group of people getting harmed. These acts have adversely affected our sensibilities.

Our America which we love is in a moral decline. It is a pandemic of harm and hurt. Our decision-making about life and death has changed. We shoot and strangle without thinking about the lifelong consequences.

Now sadly, we have lost another life due to a chokehold. Our memories of George Floyd, who was killed by a chokehold, are still fresh in our minds.

Last Monday, Jordan Neely was killed when a chokehold was used against him in a New York City subway. Neely was 24 years of age. Reports say Jordan Neely, an African American male, was not armed and appeared not to harm anyone. He was shouting that he was hungry and had given up hope. Further reporting says that he had mental health problems.

Does Jordan Neely, who did Michael Jackson impersonations, have to die because he was hungry and had given up hope? Is death the only alternative for someone who needed help and hope?

The person who administered the chokehold to Neely was Daniel Penny, a U.S. Marine veteran. Records show that he was a sergeant and served from 2017-2021. Penny’s attorneys in a statement said, “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death. We hope that out of this awful tragedy will come a new commitment by our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways.”

An interesting fact in this case is that Penny has hired Thomas Kenniff, who ran against current Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in 2021. According to CNN, Attorney Kenniff is a veteran and a major in the Army National Guard.

As of May 7, Daniel Penny has not been charged with a crime. District Attorney Bragg is investigating the case and will decide.

There are a few perspectives regarding this case which are worthy of review. These are my opinions. Was Daniel Penny engaged enough to see that he was causing Jordan Neely pain and discomfort? Why didn’t onlookers intervene to help Mr. Neely? These and other questions will be answered soon.

Mass shootings are happening across America almost on a weekly basis. There have been over 180 mass shootings in this country in 2023. 

There was a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, last week. One person was killed and four people were injured inside of a medical building. Amy St. Pierre, a mother who worked for the CDC, was killed in this shooting. CDC spokesperson, Benjamin Haynes, said, “Our hearts are with the family, friends and colleagues as they remember her and grieve this tragic loss.”

The shooter was Deion Patterson, an African American male who until January was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. He is now in police custody and reportedly had mental health problems.

Both Jordan Neely and Deion Patterson suffered from mental health disorders. Neely is no longer with us, and Patterson will be charged with a crime.

What else needs to happen before we pay real attention to mental health issues and gun acquisition? It seems we are just waiting for the next life to be lost. Our politicians make statements about doing better. However, the laws remain the same.

We the citizens wonder where tragedy will occur next. It’s not if tragedy will occur, it’s simply when tragedy will occur.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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