Galveston Officers Not Charged for Leading Black Man With Rope

Two white, mounted patrol officers from Texas who led a handcuffed Black man down the street with a rope will not face a criminal investigation, officials said.

On August 8, the Galveston Police Department announced the Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office would investigate the arrest of Donald Neely, 43. Officers P. Borsch and A. Smith from the Galveston Police Department arrested Neely, who is Black, on criminal trespassing charges at 601 23rd Street. An onlooker snapped a photo of the arrest, which subsequently went viral. The department said in a statement on Facebook that Neely had been warned about trespassing in the area prior to the arrest.

City Manager Brian Maxwell called the incident “polarizing” and said the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office “will conduct a criminal inquiry related to the arrest of Mr. Donald Neely and the Galveston County 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,” Maxwell said in a previous statement.

The photo was posted to social media and sparked outrage, with many saying that the arrest is offensive. In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said, “The photo reminds us of slavery and is indicative of a serious problem we have in this country.”

After the photo went viral, Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale, III said in a statement on Facebook that he understands “the negative perception of this action” and commented that the department has removed the arrest technique.

“Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest,” Hale said in a previous statement. “My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”

In a statement to CNN, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced on August 16 that there will be no criminal investigation into the arrest.

"The Rangers subsequently conferred with the Galveston Co. District Attorney's Office, which determined that there was nothing that warranted a criminal investigation," the department said.

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset told CNN that there is still an ongoing county investigation, but it will look into the Galveston Police Department’s policies, training, and other practices to make recommendations and changes. It is unclear when the investigation will be completed.

During a press conference on August 12, Neely’s attorney, civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, said that Neely has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Crump called the image posted to social media “horrific.”

"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 previously said during the press conference, according to ABC News. "This isn’t 1819, this is 2019, Galveston!”

Crump said that he filed a formal request for the police department to release the body camera footage of the arrest. He told reporters during the August 12 press conference that law enforcement treated his client unfairly.

"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 said, according to the news station. "[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."

The department has 20 business days to release the body cam videos to the public. Crump said there will be protests if the footage is not released.

"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.

"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."

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.