GALVESTON, Texas — A Black man in Texas whose arrest garnered national attention after White mounted police officers were seen leading him by rope is now suing the city of Galveston and its police department for $1 million.
Donald Neely, 44, suffers from mental illness and was homeless at the time when he was arrested for criminal trespassing at the Park Board of Galveston on Aug. 3, 2019, Law Officer reported.
Two officers “clipped” a rope to his handcuffs and led him through downtown streets to a mounted patrol staging area, the Galveston Police Department said in a statement shortly after the arrest. A transport unit wasn’t immediately available at the time.
The images shared online of the two White officers leading Neely using a rope tied to his handcuffs sparked public outrage at the time since it was reminiscent of images showing slaves in chains.
One of the mounted patrol officers was heard saying, “This is gonna look really bad,” when they chose this option to lead Neely to jail.
The Galveston police chief was quick to offer a public apology after the incident became national news, Law Officer reported.
“First and foremost, I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” Vernon L. Hale III, the city’s police chief, said in a statement posted on the department’s Facebook page at the time. “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 arrest.”
A lawsuit filed in Galveston County court last week by Julie Ketterman, a Houston-based attorney, argues the two officers “knew or should have believed that Neely — being a Black man — being led with a rope and by mounted officers down a city street as though he was a slave, would find this contact offensive,” Fox News reported.
Neely is seeking $1 million in damages for emotional distress, malicious prosecution, and negligence. He’s also demanding a trial by jury.
“Neely felt as though he was put on display as slaves once were,” the lawsuit states, according to KPRC. “He suffered from fear because one of the horses was acting dangerously, putting Neely in fear of being drug down the street by a run-away horse.”
The department later changed its policy of using mounted horses to transport people placed under arrest in most scenarios.