Police in Texas has sparked outrage after pictures emerged showing two white officers on horseback leading a black man through the street by a rope on Saturday.
Galveston Police issued an apology on Monday after the shocking picture surfaced on social media, prompting a fierce backlash over its apparent connotations of slavery and civil rights issues.
The photograph shows Donald Neely, 43, being transported by Officer Patrick Brosch and Officer A. Smith from 306 22nd St to the Mounted Patrol Unit on 21st and Market.
Police clarified that while it may have appeared Neely’s wrists were tied with the rope during the trespassing arrest, he was in fact handcuffed and the line was attached to the cuffs.
But viewers of a video that later emerged left people disgusted after a some believed they were witnessing a bag being removed from Neely’s head.
Galveston Police’s public information officer told DailyMail.com: ‘Mr. Neely was wearing a welding mask on his head at the time that he was taken into custody. The mask was falling down and Officer Brosch asked Mr. Neely for permission to remove the mask and hold it while they walked.’
People in the area commented online that he is known for wearing the cover-up.
Law enforcement said they were familiar with Neely and he had been reprimanded for trespassing in the area before. They had given him several warnings before walking him using the rope.
The department said the officers were wearing body cameras. They are not facing disciplinary action.
Neely’s sister-in-law Christin Neely said in a Facebook post on Monday that her brother is a ‘homeless and mentally ill‘ father of eight.
‘Imagine that YOU are aware that living on the streets is dangerous, unsanitary, makes you a target for crime/law enforcement and isolates you from your family but YOU CAN’T make that relative understand that despite your many efforts,’ Christin wrote.
‘Imagine searching the streets of a city for days looking for your loved one, to no avail. Have any of you ever went to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the local homeless shelters hoping you’d find your loved one having a meal with hopes to kidnap them and bring them home.
‘Imagine locating your loved one, getting them in your car and they jump out of your moving vehicle to keep you from taking them from where they now call home. Just imagine for one second being 1 of his 8 children who have been fatherless for years and your father isn’t incarcerated or dead.’
Christin said she only found out about the incident from the image circulating online and labeled the arresting cops ‘incompetent’.
‘Imagine scrolling fb and seeing said loved one being escorted to jail on foot by 2 officers on horses, hands cuffed behind his back with a rope attached. In 2019????’ Christin continued. ‘He was treated like an animal paraded through the streets by two incompetent a**holes!
‘I have read some of the most hateful and insensitive comments in concern to the incident involving my BIL Donald Neely’s recent arrest by GPD. People don’t even understand the depth of mental illness and how it affects the person and their family. WE HAVE TRIED AND ARE CONTINUOUSLY TRYING TO BRING HIM HOME! Please continue to pray for my family!’
The mother of one of Neely’s children commented that he was treated like a ‘dog or slave’‘.
Terrie Cotton wrote: ‘I may not speak to him daily. Hell its been years since I have. But he is still my child’s father and this has broken my heart. He is not a threat to any he is very kind-hearted and would help anyone.No on deserve to b threaten in this manner. He is not a dog r slave they have gone to far. I pray he is ok and the police that did this r fired.’
Although the method is described as a ‘trained technique and best practice in some scenarios’, the department said it ‘showed poor judgment’ but claimed officers ‘did not have any malicious intent’.
Police said: ‘A transportation unit was not immediately available at the time of the arrest’ and while the technique may have been appropriate ‘during crowd control, the practice was not used correctly in this instance’.
Now Galveston Police has put a stop to the procedure while it reviews alternative methods of arrest and transportation for mounted officers. The department said it understands the ‘negative perception of this action’ and believes ‘it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique’.
The statement from Chief Vernon Hale III read in part: ‘I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest.
‘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.’
The president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice supported an end to the technique.
He said the officers should have waited with Neely until alternative transport arrived at the scene.
‘With the climate in the country today, I would hate to see, six months or three years down the road, what kind of judgment these same officers would make in a worse scenario,’ Leon Phillips commented to the Houston Chronicle.
‘Stay there with him instead of humiliating him. And now you’ve humiliated the whole city of Galveston because everybody who sees it is going to have an opinion.’
One tweeter pointed out that the racist Charleston mass murderer was taken to Burger King after his arrest for gunning down church-goers.
Philipps claimed that if the cops were arresting a white man they would not have opted to use the technique.
‘All I know is that these are two white police officers on horseback with a black man walking him down the street with a rope tied to the handcuffs, and that’s doesn’t make sense, period,’ Phillips continued. ‘And I do understand this — if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn’t have happened.’
The president of Houston’s NAACP chapter said he’s happy the technique is no longer being used but expressed shock at the imagery and the department’s failure to address the officers’ ‘lack of respect’.
‘This is 2019 and not 1819,’ he commented to the Houston Chronicle. ‘Even though the chief indicated that the technique would be discontinued he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrated by the officers in the episode.’
Texas Democrat for Congress TX-14, Adrienne Bell, said: ‘It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers…
‘It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community.
‘Swift action is needed to ensure that no one is demeaned in this manner again, and arrest procedures are fair, just, and humane.’