Body-cam footage showing two white Texas cops on horseback leading a handcuffed homeless black man on foot into town by rope after they had arrested him for criminal trespass was released Wednesday.
"This is going to look really bad," one of the cops is heard admitting.
Galveston police officers Amanda Smith and Patrick Brosch arrested Donald Neely, 43, in early August for what appears to be him sleeping on a bench in front of a building where he’d been arrested for trespassing before.
“Why do you keep coming back here, Mr. Neely,” Brosch is heard asking. “They don’t want you here,” Smith follows up.
After Brosch gathers Neely’s few belongings, his shoes and welder’s hood, Smith clips a rope to Neely’s handcuffs and they begin their nearly 10 minute journey through the city to the officers truck and horse trailer. From there, it was another 10 minute wait until a third officer arrived to put Neely in a patrol car.
From Smith and Brosch explaining to Neely what he did wrong to Brosch placing Neely’s welding hood back on him at his request to leading the mentally ill man to the parking lot, the entire interaction was calm. But it was the optics that sparked outraged.
“You wanna make him walk all the way back,” Brosch asked Smith, which she nodded to. “It’s gonna look really bad,” he continues.
Protesters demanded the body-cam footage be released, but the city of Galveston wanted to wait until an external investigation was completed. The report hasn’t been made public yet, but the Texas Rangers did determine the cops didn’t break any laws.
In Texas, cops patrolling on horses is a common sight to see. The southern state keeps it’s western culture alive in that way, but the visual also resembled less fond historic memories – the Jim Crow era, which is why so many people had an issue with the way Neely was detained.
“It’s gonna look so bad,” Brosch reiterates as he hands Neely his green shirt before they start walking. “I’m not embarrassed either,” Neely says to which Brosch replies he’s “glad.”
Still, the Galveston Police Chief, Vernon Hale, apologized for the “unnecessary embarrassment” during the detainment and announced the department would no longer use the technique – one that had been previously used to control large crowds.
While Hale said the two cops showed “poor judgement,” he claimed their actions didn’t stem from malicious intentions. The president of Houston’s NAACP chapter, on the other hand, said the cops were being downright disrespectful.
“This is 2019 and not 1819,” James Douglas wrote the newspaper in an email. “I am happy to know that Chief Vernon issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgment, but...he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrated by the officers in the episode.”
The president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, Leon Phillips, said the depiction reminded him of racist images from the 1920s.
"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 doesn't make sense, period," he said. "And I do understand this — if it was a white man, I guarantee it wouldn't have happened."
Neely is free, having been released on bond, but Hale has said he would use the sheriff’s office report to decide whether further action should be taken against the cops.
The edited video is above and the unedited full video is below.