Black Man Seen Tied To Rope Led By White Cops In Texas Has Mental Illness, Family Says
The Galveston Police Department apologized on Monday after the photo began to circulate on social media.
Update (August 9, 2019): The Black man who was seen tied to a rope led by two white officers on horses in Texas suffers from a mental disorder, his family said.
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The New York Times reported Donald Neely struggles with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, regularly sleeping on the streets in Galveston.
Neely had resisted numerous attempts by his family to move back home and had been living on the streets for nearly five years, The Hill reported.
His family said the cops should have been aware of his mental disorder based on his criminal history.
Neely had been arrested six times in 2019 prior to his recent arrest on misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges and had a history of interactions with the police.
The 43-year-old was arrested Saturday for allegedly trespassing in a commercial neighborhood. According to the Times, Neely had been warned multiple times before not to trespass in the area.
The disturbing scene was captured by an onlooker and later went viral on social media, causing outrage from the Black community.
Neely's sister, Taranette, said in an interview Tuesday her brother had stopped taking his medication and that his mental state was deteriorating.
“They don’t care to know the whole story,” she said. “You're a criminal in their eyes. You’ll always be a criminal. Ain’t no redemption for you. You’re trash. And that’s how they treated him.”
Original: The Galveston Police Department was forced to apologize on Monday evening after a disturbing photo began circulating online of two white officers on horses leading a Black man with a rope.
Police arrested 43-year-old Donald Neely for criminal trespassing on Saturday and needed to transfer him to another location. The two mounted officers, identified only as P. Brosch and A. Smith, tied a rope to his handcuffs and led him through the streets.
The photo was initially shared by Adrienne Bell, a Democratic candidate running for Congress in Texas’ 14th District, and quickly went viral as anger grew.
This is just sickening and uncalled for.— zellie (@zellieimani) August 6, 2019
This young black man was put on a leash while handcuffed between two mounted horses in Galveston, Texas.
This invokes painful imagery of slave catchers and runaway enslaved Africans. pic.twitter.com/ZHEmyCYbUE
Texas residents were incensed by the disturbing photo, which many said harkened back to slavery and Jim Crow.
"It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers," Bell wrote on Facebook. "It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community."
In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice Leon Phillips said the photo was not only damaging to Black Texans but harmed the city's reputation nationally.
"Stay there with him instead of humiliating him. And now you've humiliated the whole city of Galveston because everybody who sees it is going to have an opinion," he said.
"All I know is that these are two white police officers on horseback with a black man walking him down the street with a rope tied to the handcuffs, and that's doesn't make sense, period. And I do understand this — if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn't have happened."
In a statement released on Monday evening, the police department tried to defend the two officers by saying no transportation units were "immediately available at the time of the arrest" and that they were only "escorting" Neely.
"We understand the negative perception of this action and believe it is most appropriate to cease the use of this technique. The Police Chief has taken immediate action to suspend this technique of transportation during arrests," the department said on Facebook.
“While this technique of using mounted horses to transport a person during an arrest is considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control, the practice was not used correctly in this instance.”
Police Chief Vernon Hale released his own statement apologizing to the community but made no mention of whether the officers would be punished for the photo.
“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 the arrest," Hale said. "My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest, but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”
Phillips told The New York Times that the photo reminded people like him of a time when Black Texans were routinely mistreated by police officers in public, embarrassing ways.
The president of Houston's NAACP chapter, James Douglas, also released a statement slamming Hale for his lackluster statement about the photo.
"This is 2019 and not 1819," he told The Houston Chronicle.
"I am happy to know that Chief Vernon [Hale] issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgement, but it also shows poor training. Even though the chief indicated that the technique would be discontinued he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrate by the officers in the episode."