HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Cell phone video shows a controversial arrest in Galveston—a black man in handcuffs, tied to a rope, and led on foot by two white police officers on horseback.
The video shows an officer taking what appears to be a bag off of the trespassing suspect’s head. Police told FOX 26 it is a welding mask that belongs to the suspect, Donald Neely, 43, who is homeless.
Police have not yet responded to demands for the release of the officers’ body cam video showing what led to the arrest.
Police say they were leading Neely to a staging area at 21st Street and Market Street because “a transportation unit was not immediately available.”
The police report says Neely was arrested for trespassing at the Parks Board of Galveston at 601 23rd Street at 6:45 p.m. Saturday—making for a five-block rope-led police escort.
“At first I was totally upset,” said Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice. “Something like that brings back thoughts...of what it must have been like for my ancestors.”
Phillips says the Galveston Coalition for Justice is investigating the Galveston Police prisoner transport policy. Meanwhile Galveston’s Police Chief says “the practice was not the correct use for this instance,” and the department has “immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique.”
Galveston Parks Board officials say their office does have a trespassing warrant against Neely, who has visited their building before, but they’re not aware of him trespassing there Saturday.
“This facility is closed on Saturdays, so we would not be here to make that phone call,” said Jaree Fortin with the Galveston Parks Board.
The police report’s arrest address contradicts a police press release saying Neely was arrested at the Merrill Lynch building on 22nd Street. That building was also closed Saturday, and police didn’t answer requests for clarification.
“As a family, we looked at it and said, it reminded us of the Wild West,” said Margaret Pottinger, a tourist from England who saw the news while visiting Galveston Tuesday.
“Public humiliation—dragging somebody on a horse by a rope,” said Christopher Parrish, a homeless man who says he used to eat meals with Neely at Christus Our Daily Bread—a homeless outreach center. “I’ve seen him before. He looked like he was a happy go lucky kind of guy.”
“Cops...they’re generally there to protect the people—not to shame them or not to harm them,” said David Wait, another homeless man at the center.
Phillips says he’s waiting to see whether the officers violated policy to decide whether he believes the officers involved in the arrest should be punished.
“It wouldn’t make any difference if it was three Anglos,” said Phillips. “It doesn’t look right. You just don’t do this.”
Neely’s $5,000 bond was posted Sunday, according The the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. FOX 26 was not able to reach Neely for comment. Court documents show he’s been arrested for trespassing six times so far in 2019.