(GALVESTON, Texas) — The family of the man who could be seen in a viral photo last week handcuffed and bound with rope as two white police officers in Texas led him down the street on horseback are calling for the police to release body camera video of the arrest.
Donald Neely, 43, was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing on Aug. 3 by Galveston police officers P. Brosch and A. Smith. But there is no record that the charges have been pursued by the city’s district attorney, according to Neely’s defense attorney, Melissa Morris.
The viral image caused outrage throughout the community and beyond. Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale III later released an apology on behalf of the department, saying the officers “showed poor judgment.”
Neely’s civil attorney, Benjamin Crump, said seeing that image 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. “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 said. “[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.”
Crump said Neely was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.
In a statement on Monday, the Galveston Police Department said it was “committed to a thorough, complete and timely review of all the facts” related to Neely’s arrest.
“As such, the department has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers Division and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office to perform independent investigations of the August 3rd arrest of Mr. Neely,” the statement continued. “This review is now with those agencies and we have full confidence they will thoroughly and justly evaluate the incident. We anticipate the body camera footage will be released after the investigations are concluded. The Texas Occupations Code…prohibits the release of the videos before that time.”
Tara Neely, Donald Neely’s younger sister, said during a press conference on Monday that the image of her brother’s arrest “tore” her heart. “I’m still in shock,” she said. “My brother has suffered since he was an infant.”
“He cared for us, he took on a role too young. He’s not a bad person, he’s very loving,” she continued. “He’s just lost his way somewhere… We love our brother, we’re not out here for money. We just want justice for him.”
Donald Neely’s younger brother, Andy Neely, also spoke at the press conference on Monday in which the family sought the police body camera video on Monday. He said his brother is a “loving, kind person [who] wouldn’t harm a fly.”
“The way the officers treated him, it just ain’t right… They dehumanized my brother on the streets,” he said. “Why would they do that after several encounters with him? It was just to humiliate him. No man, no women, black, brown, purple, should be embarrassed the way my brother was.”
The Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office agreed last week to conduct a third-party investigation into 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,” said Brian Maxwell, the city manager of Galveston.
Crump said Neely’s team and family are organizing a march in Galveston if the police do not release the video.
Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has also officially requested the body camera video be released to the public, Crump said.
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