Galveston Family and Attorney Demand Police Body Cam Footage After Horseback Arrest

Civil rights advocates and the family of a Black man are demanding that police release body camera video of his arrest, after a photo of him handcuffed and bound with rope went viral. Two white Texas police officers walked him down a street on horseback.

Officer P. Borsch and Officer A. Smith from the Galveston Police Department arrested Donald Neely, 43, on criminal trespassing charges at 601 23rd Street. An onlooker posted the disturbing photo of the arrest on social media on August 3 and sparked national outrage.

The department noted in a statement on Facebook that Neely had been warned before about trespassing in the area. Authorities said Neely, who is Black, was handcuffed “and a line was clipped to the handcuffs.” Both officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the arrest.

Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale, III issued an apology and said that he understood “the negative perception” of the arrest technique. In his apology, he stated the department had “changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”

“First and foremost I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment. Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest,” Hale said in a previous statement.

Despite the apology, many civil rights advocates point to the image’s disturbing nature because it is reminiscent of era of slavery. Neely’s attorney, prominent civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, said during a press conference on August 12 that Neely has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

He said seeing the image on social media was "like they were dragging our entire community down the street by rope." "These horrific images… conjure up historical memories of when slave owners… dragged black slaves by rope around their necks back in the 1700s and the 1800s," Crump said, according to ABC News. "This isn’t 1819, this is 2019, Galveston!”

"If these officers are good people, of good character, then the Galveston Police Department should have no problem releasing the police body cam video," Crump continued. "[The video will show] the content of their character when they talked to, and how they treated an unarmed Black citizen who was suffering from mental illnesses."

During the press conference, Crump said he filed a formal request for the police department to release the body cam footage of the arrest, NBC News reported.

"Government if you want us to believe what you’re saying about these police officers being of good will and good morals and good character of content then release the video," Crump said, according to WTHR. "You don't need to say no more, release the video. Don't say no more, release the video. Don't say no more, release the video. Don't say no more, release the video."

The department has 20 business days to release the body cam videos to the public, but has the option to dispute the request by sending it to the Texas attorney general, according to NBC News. Crump said if the footage is not released, there will be protests.

"Until you release that video from that body camera, we're not going anywhere. We’re going to stay here and stand with Neely and his family," Crump said, according to the news station.

"If you don't release it in 30 days, we’re going to invite other civil rights advocates, and we’re going to march on Galveston," he continued. "And we’re going to march on the same streets that you dragged Neely down on a rope."

On August 8, the police department announced it has called on the Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office to investigate Neely’s arrest. The department said the Texas Rangers will “conduct a criminal inquiry related to the arrest” and the Sheriff's office will “perform a full administrative review of the department’s policies and practices as they relate to the arrest.”

“This is such a polarizing event that it is imperative that we have an independent, third-party investigation to ensure we address any potential issues,” City Manager Brian Maxwell said in a statement.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.