A mounted Galveston police officer said “this is gonna look really bad” shortly before he escorted a handcuffed man down the street by a line.
The comment was heard on body camera footage released Wednesday by the Galveston Police Department at the end of an administrative review of the controversial August 3 arrest.
The department apologized for its treatment of the arrested man, Donald Neely, after photos emerged of two mounted officers leading him down the street.
City officials requested a third-party investigation into the arrest, conducted by the Texas Rangers, who determined it did not warrant a criminal investigation.
A separate county investigation examined the police department’s policies, training and practices and was instructed to make recommendations on any changes that should be enacted. The city released the body camera footage Wednesday after receiving the report, but it did not release the findings.
The Galveston police chief will now review the report and decide whether any further action is needed, the city said in a statement.
Police led Neely down city streets
Neely was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, police said. A hearing for Neely on that charge is scheduled for October 24, according to Galveston County Court records, and his attorney, Julie Ketterman, said he will be pleading not guilty.
The footage begins with the officers approaching a building where Neely is lying down in a breezeway.
“Why do you keep coming back here, Mr. Neely?” one officer, identified by the department only by his last name, Brosch, asks. “You were asked by the property manager not to come back, ever. You’ve been arrested here multiple times for criminal trespass, and you know that.”
Brosch asks his partner, identified by the department only as Officer Smith, whether she should leave to get their truck so they could drive Neely to the station. Smith indicates they should not split up, saying, “The sergeant’s not big on us not leaving in two’s.”
Brosch asks, “You want to make him walk all the way back?” and she nods.
Smith takes what appears to be a blue rope — which the police department said is a “line,” not a rope — and clips it to the man’s handcuffs.
“This is gonna look really bad,” Brosch says.
He gathers some of Neely’s belongings, including his cup of change, and says, “You’re doing good, Mr. Neely, but we gotta do what we gotta do, too, you know?”
As the officers lead Neely away, Brosch says again, “This is gonna look so bad.”
Neely says he’s not embarrassed. “I’m glad you’re not embarrassed, Mr. Neely,” Brosch says.
Neely’s attorney, Melissa Morris, said in August that he has a mental illness and has been homeless for about seven years. Along the walk, the officers point to other buildings where they say they have found Neely and tell him not to return to them, either.
They lead Neely to a large parking lot where the police truck and horse trailer are parked, and the body camera footage ends. They have gone about five blocks, and the walk took a little more than nine minutes.
Next steps for the police
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale said in a statement Wednesday he is studying the administrative report “and will use its findings to make decisions in the near future about the next steps for the department.”
Hale said after the arrest that the officers had no malicious intent, but the department immediately changed its policy to prevent use of the technique.
Still, he said the officers showed “poor judgment” and “could have waited for a transport unit at the location of the arrest.”
City Manager Brian Maxwell said any discipline for the officers is at Hale’s discretion.
“The city supports the chief in any actions he deems to be appropriate; however, if the investigation identifies deficiencies in department policies or practices those will be addressed directly with the chief.”