Donald Neely, the African American man who was led through the streets on a rope by two white police officers, has said he feels ‘overcome with shame’ by footage of the ordeal.
Images of the 43-year-old’s arrest in August showed him walking through the streets of downtown Galveston, Texas between two police horses, with a rope attached to his handcuffs.
The images shocked the world and went viral, with many people condemning the Galveston police department and comparing the scene to slavery. Earlier this week, body camera footage of Neely’s arrest was made public by the city of Galveston.
Watch the ABC News report below:
In the footage, one of the officers can be heard saying ‘this is going to look so bad’ as they prepare to walk Neely through the streets.
At the time of his arrest, Neely repeatedly told officers he wasn’t embarrassed, but his feelings changed after seeing the footage.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the 43-year-old was not lucid when the incident took place. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had lived on Galveston streets since 2016, repeatedly resisting his family’s efforts to bring him home. His August arrest marked his sixth trespassing violation in 2019 alone.
In an interview with the publication following the release of the body cam footage, Neely said:
I wasn’t embarrassed walking between the horses until I seen the video. It came back and hurt me because I did not know I was getting video recorded by the public. Now I feel embarrassed.
After pictures of him were shared across the globe, Neely began piecing his life back together. He entered a Houston treatment centre for three weeks before moving in with his sister, Taranette, and her family in Clear Lake City. He now also takes daily medication.
The shocking way the 43-year-old was treated by police added urgency to a discussion about law enforcement interactions with people who are mentally ill, particularly in Galveston County. On Friday, US Senator John Cornyn hosted a roundtable discussion of the issue in Galveston with local officials and advocates.
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) August 6, 2019
County officials and law enforcement are reportedly hoping to set up a specialised court to process mentally ill defendants, the Houston Chronicle report.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale admitted the department could have handled Neely’s arrest better, though he added the arresting officers did a good job of keeping him calm during the process.
Neely’s attorney, Julie Ketterman, said her client’s treatment was unacceptable.
I don’t care what’s in the books — for anybody to think for a second that would be OK, not just for a black man but for any human being, mentally ill or otherwise, is just absurd to me.
The black eye that I think it put — not just on Galveston, but Texas now — infuriates me.
Do I want to get him compensated so that he isn’t on the streets? Absolutely. He knows what happened is wrong, but he’s not angry. He just doesn’t want it to happen again, and he doesn’t want it to happen to anybody.
Neely has said he isn’t angry at the officers who arrested him, both of who knew him from previous encounters, but he believes it’s a waste of time and money to continue to arrest him when he isn’t harming anyone, explaining ‘they’re wasting taxpayer dollars’.
He hopes the image of him handcuffed and being led through the streets will prompt a broader conversation regarding how local police departments handle mentally ill suspects.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.