Galveston, Tx – In August of 2019, images and videos of Donald Neely’s controversial arrest went viral.
Neely, a Black man, was arrested by two white police officers on horseback and led down the street handcuffed and attached to a rope one of the officers was holding. Many people on social media compared the images of Neely’s arrest to images of slavery.
A $1 million lawsuit filed this week references this imagery and alleges that Neely suffered humiliation and fear during the arrest.
According to the lawsuit the officers should have been aware that Neely, “being led with a rope and by mounted officers down a city street as though he was a slave, would find this contact offensive.”
The lawsuit filed last week in Galveston County district court alleges that the officers’ conduct was “extreme and outrageous” and caused Neely emotional distress.
“Neely felt as though he was put on display as slaves once were,” the lawsuit stated.
At the time of the arrest, Neely was homeless and sleeping on a sidewalk. He was arrested for criminal trespassing and was being led around the block to a mounted patrol staging area. In body camera video, one officer could be heard twice saying that leading Neely by rope down city streets would look “bad.”
After a public outcry over the images, Galveston’s Police Chief Vernon Hale released a statement saying the tactic was a “trained technique and best practice in some scenarios.” However, he said he believed his officers “showed poor judgment.” There was no “malicious intent”, he said, and apologized to Mr. Neely for the “unnecessary embarrassment”, adding that the department has since changed its policy to prevent the use of the technique.
An investigation by the Texas Rangers determined the officers did not break the law.
Neely’s criminal trespass charge was dismissed in court. His lawsuit also alleges malicious prosecution connected to the charge.
A status conference is currently scheduled for 7 January, 2021. Mr. Neely is requesting a trial by jury, according to court documents.