Not ‘Chokehold’, But Cold-Blooded Murder – OpEd


According to the freelance journalist who recorded the chokehold on the New York subway, what happened was not something that was majorly threatening to anyone in any manner: “The man got on the subway car and began to say a somewhat aggressive speech, saying he was hungry, he was thirsty, that he did not care about anything, he didn’t care about going to jail, he didn’t care that he gets a big life sentence. That ‘It doesn’t even matter if I died’.”

These lines sound tragic to say the least, especially coming from a man who is poor, mentally ill and homeless. The journalist mentioned in a post, “The disturbed man did not seem to want to attack anyone.” What followed was that a rider, for reasons that are hard to imagine, pulled the vagrant “to the ground in a chokehold and kept him there for about 15 minutes.” Needless to say, the man in the chokehold passed out and eventually died. 

I can imagine these things happening in a third world country. But, Noam Chomsky talks about a third world in the US. This is the third world in the US where a homeless man is murdered in cold blood and the police are yet to register a case against the 24-year old who put the man in a chokehold for fifteen long minutes. Imagine someone unable to breathe for 30 seconds and then try to guess how much the man in the chokehold must have struggled, while life slowly ebbed away from his body.  

Who, in his right mind, does that? This is not for lack of education. This is pure rage and lack of imagination or what we call, empathy. We call it blind hatred which could be rooted in both class and race, the former as much as the latter. From the video, it is clear that the victim was a black man and the young man who took his life, a white man. It doesn’t matter if it was the other way round or if they were of mixed parentage. The 24-year old should be arrested and charged with murder, while the other two riders who helped him in holding the homeless man to the floor of the train, should also be charged for being a party to the murder, instead of preventing it. 

In which country of the world do these things happen? This is inhuman and brutal to say the least. Who are those law enforcement officials who let the 24-year old go, without putting him in jail until the completion of the investigation? Cases should be filed against them as well. If this were to happen in Iran or Afghanistan there would be columns dedicated to the inhumanity of the whole episode; and how no one should be surprised given the social and cultural background of people from these countries! Acts like these question the very basis of what passes for morality and civilized behavior in countries like the United States. Mainstream press (NY Times) is already trying to make this look like a “deadly encounter” (yeah! one-sided!) and a legally complicated matter. 

It is hard for me not to suspect that the only reason that the 24-year old was let off was because he was white and possibly for being a former marine, not to mention that the victim was poor and black. None of them are good enough reasons though. To kill a man in cold blood you need to possess a certain kind of psychology. From the eyewitness account, there seems to be neither enough provocation from the homeless man nor was the young man’s life in threat, so much so, that he had to act in self-defense to save himself. Assuming that there was indeed some such threat, the fifteen-minute chokehold tells a different story altogether. The 24-year old is clearly a sociopath with dangerously violent tendencies. He is a threat to the social order and should be treated as such. Today he may be allowed to get away for this brutal act, because who really cares for a poor, black, mentally ill person. But, I’ve no doubt in my mind that this will not be the last time that he will be doing something like this. There is a violent, murderous streak in all men. Unless that is put under control through education and through enforcing the law, there is no hope for a nation.


“Man dies after NYC subway rider puts him in chokehold during train altercation, police and witness say.”

“NYPD awaiting autopsy results before deciding on charges in subway chokehold death.”

“A Deadly Encounter on the Subway Raises Troubling Questions.”

Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona is an independent scholar who, until December 2022, was a professor at The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad, India. He was “removed from service” for making allegations of corruption against an unscrupulous university administration and is currently challenging his dismissal in the court of law.

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