Galveston officers won’t face criminal charges in controversial arrest

Galveston officers won’t face criminal charges in controversial arrest
CNN image

Two mounted officers seen leading a handcuffed black man by what appeared to be a rope will not face a criminal investigation, authorities say.

City officials in Galveston requested a third-party investigation into the arrest of Donald Neely, 43, after images circulated of him being led through town by two Galveston Police Department officers.

“The Rangers subsequently conferred with the Galveston Co. District Attorney’s Office, which determined that there was nothing that warranted a criminal investigation,” said a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

It referred additional questions to the prosecutor’s office.

The Texas Rangers informed local officials of their decision Friday, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

A separate county investigation remains ongoing, but its charge is to examine the Galveston Police Department’s policies, training and practices and make recommendations on changes that should be enacted, the sheriff said. There’s no time frame for releasing the administrative report, he said.

Trochesset’s department had no involvement in the incident, but the Galveston Police Department has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.

Neely had been arrested and charged with criminal trespass, according to police. Police said the officer is holding a “line” that was clipped to the man’s handcuffs, not a rope.

“When they drag Donald Neely down the road by horses and rope, it was like they (were) dragging our entire community down the road,” attorney Benjamin Crump, who is working with the family, said.

Neely’s attorney, Melissa Morris, says he has a mental illness and has been homeless for about seven years. The decision to not open a criminal investigation did not surprise her, she said.

“I can understand them deciding there’s no criminal action with these officers,” Morris told the Houston Chronicle. “I still think it’s poor judgment even if it’s within the confines of policy.”

Earlier this month, Galveston police apologized for “the negative perception of this action” and said it will stop using the transportation technique.

“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,” Police Chief Vernon Hale said in a statement.

Crump said the apology is not enough and demanded that the department release the body camera video of the incident.

“Until you release that video from that body cam, we are not going anywhere,” Crump said. “We’re going to stay here and stand with Donald Neely and his family.”

Community members were outraged by the image and what it represented. Adrienne Bell, a candidate for Congress who provided the photos to CNN, said it was hard to understand “why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers.”

“It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust and questions from the community,” she said on Facebook.

CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Theresa Waldrop, Joe Sutton, Christina Maxouris, Konstantin Toropin, Chris Boyette and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report