Activists demand justice in Galveston man's controversial arrest

Jessica Willey Image
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
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Galveston police chief faces community after photo of man's arrest.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale addressed the public Tuesday night for the first time since a photo went viral, showing white police officers on horseback leading a handcuffed black man down the street by a rope.

"We have stopped the practice immediately and we will be looking for more appropriate methods," he told the packed and diverse crowd at the Old Central Cultural Center.

RELATED: Galveston officers on horseback seen leading handcuffed man with rope

Hale mostly listened to the community. He gave short answers to some questions.

The family of Donald Neely, the man in the photo, and their attorneys were in attendance.

"We are speaking up for Donald Neely," said Ben Crump, a well-known civil rights attorney.

"It's not policy. It's the judgement of an officer or officers who don't understand the racial insensitivity of such a tactic," added Melissa Morris, the attorney for the Neely family.

WATCH: Protest over Donald Neely's arrest in Galveston

Neely was arrested on Saturday for trespassing and then walked by two officers on horseback to a waiting patrol unit, according to the department.

A rope was attached to his handcuffs. Video shows him initially wearing a welding mask, which one of the officers removed.

The spectacle has conjured up painful images from America's dark past. It has outraged Neely's family.

"Especially being African-American. Not that we lived in that day and time, but we all studied. We know the history, and to think in 2019 they saw fit to treat him like they would have treated us back then, it's just very disturbing," Christin Neely, Neely's sister-in-law, told ABC13 Tuesday afternoon.

"I want justice to be served. I want those officer fired," said Andy Neely, Neely's brother.

Neely, they say, despite their efforts, is homeless and mentally ill. They feel like the officers took advantage of him.

Photo provided by lawyer for Donald Neely's family.

He complied, he told his family, because he was afraid a horse would kick him.

At the meeting, Chief Hale thanked the family and told them he would set up a meeting. Morris had hoped for more.

"I wanted a response," she said. "It was a cop out."

Neely's sister is just hopeful.

"I have faith he will come through and do what he says he will do," said Taranette Neely.

In a statement released Monday, Chief Hale apologized for the "unnecessary embarrassment."

ABC13 has requested the officers' body camera video of the arrest. It has not been released.

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