Daniel Penny, the Marine veteran who put homeless man Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold earlier in May, has broken his silence about the incident.
In an interview with the New York Post published Saturday, Penny said that he was "deeply saddened" by Neely's death.
"It’s tragic what happened to him," Penny said. "Hopefully, we can change the system that’s so desperately failed us."
Penny, who was criminally charged over the incident, refuted any claims that he was racist for restraining Neely, a Black man. The Marine veteran flatly said that the incident "had nothing to do with race."
"I judge a person based on their character. I’m not a white supremacist," Penny explained. "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."
"You can tell by my past and all my travels and adventures around the world. I was actually planning a road trip through Africa before this happened," Penny added.
Penny told the Post that he was on his way to the gym when Neely entered his subway car on May 1. Neely, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, began yelling about going to jail and being hungry and tired.
Passengers have said that Neely was yelling and acting erratically when Penny intervened by putting him in a chokehold. Penny's lawyers have argued that the Marine veteran was trying to defend himself and passengers by restraining Neely.
Authorities are still determining to what extent Neely was threatening the train's passengers. Freelance journalist Juan Alberto Vazquez, who filmed the incident, said that Neely was yelling and threw his jacket to the ground, but that he did not physically attack anyone.
But an eyewitness told Fox News Digital that Penny was a "hero" and recalled that Neely was using words like "kill" and "bullet" when he was yelling.
"It was self-defense, and I believe in my heart that [Penny] saved a lot of people that day that could have gotten hurt," the retiree told Fox News Digital.
"I’m sitting on a train reading my book, and, all of a sudden, I hear someone spewing this rhetoric. He said, ‘I don’t care if I have to kill an F, I will. I’ll go to jail, I’ll take a bullet,’" the woman, who is in her 60s, explained.
The 24-year-old veteran told the Post that he did not regret the encounter and did not feel ashamed.
"I don’t, I mean, I always do what I think is right," Penny said.
Penny is due back to court in July and, if convicted, could spend a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Fox News Digital's Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.