Daniel Penny has broken his silence in the wake of the media storm surrounding his alleged involvement in the death of a mentally ill man on a New York subway train earlier this month.

As previously reported, Penny is being held legally accountable for placing Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on May 1. Penny, 24, claimed the maneuver was an act of self-defense, as Neely was allegedly in the midst of an aggressive outburst and threatening others on the train. The well-known street performer died from the minuteslong compression applied to his neck. A medical examiner ruled the 30-year-old’s death a homicide.

Video footage of the chaotic encounter between the two men shows at least two other passengers who joined Penny in restraining Neely until he was completely subdued. Online, the imagery of a white man holding a Black man in a chokehold has struck a visceral nerve, leaving many outraged. In his first interview, the former U.S. Marine said, “This had nothing to do with race,” despite the ongoing discourse suggesting otherwise.

Speaking with the New York Post on Saturday (May 20), he continued, “I judge a person based on their character. I’m not a white supremacist. I mean, it’s… it’s a little bit comical. Everybody who’s ever met me can tell you I love all people, I love all cultures.” Penny added, “It’s tragic what happened to him. Hopefully, we can change the system that’s so desperately failed us,” but he expressed he does not feel shame for his actions because he did what he thought was right.

On May 12, Penny surrendered to authorities in Manhattan. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter. He was released on a $100,000 bond. On Friday (May 19), Neely’s family and community said their final farewells at his funeral, which was held in Harlem. The beloved Michael Jackson impersonator was eulogized by Rev. Al Sharpton. “There has been, since Jordan’s death, a distortion of values that we need to make clear has been violated,” he began. “When they choked Jordan, they put their arms around all of us… Jordan was not annoying someone on the train. Jordan was screaming for help.”

At the time of his death, Neely was a part of New York’s unhoused population and had a history of suffering from schizophrenia, PTSD, and depression. Andre Zachery, Neely’s father, and other family members have expressed frustration over Penny’s charge, saying it is too lenient. “He wasn’t out to hurt nobody,” said the grieving father when he spoke with Fox News days after his son’s death. “He was a good kid and a good man, too. Something has to be done… That man, he’s still walking around right now. My son didn’t deserve to die because he needed help.” Attorneys for both Penny and Neely’s family have made conflicting comments about witness accounts of the May 1 incident.