A police report with details of Donald Neely’s arrest contradicts information previously released by the Galveston Police Department.
Neely, 43, was arrested Saturday in front of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees’ headquarters, 601 23rd St., according to a two-page police report the city of Galveston released Wednesday.
The arrest appears to have been made under a standing order to arrest Neely if he was seen on the property after multiple other arrests this year at the same location.
Neely was arrested on Saturday afternoon and charged with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail term of up to 180 days.
After arresting Neely, officers Patrick Brosch and Amanda Smith, who were on mounted patrol, handcuffed Neely and attached him to a line. The officers then led Neely to the intersection of 21st and Market streets while he was walked between their horses.
At least three people photographed or otherwise recorded the arrest. The first pictures surfaced Monday, and quickly sparked an outcry over the way Neely, who is black, was treated and drew charges of racism against the city.
The investigation report identifies the victim of Neely’s trespassing as the Galveston Park Board of Trustees headquarters at 601 23rd St.
The report also contradicts information released previously by the police department and by witnesses to Neely’s arrest.
In a press release on Monday, the police department said Neely was arrested at 306 22nd St., an office building owned by Mitchell Historic Properties and occupied by Merrill Lynch Financial Services.
The arrest report states that Neely was arrested in the 600 block of 23rd Street, the location of the park board office.
The police department’s original description of the arrest location does not match the area of the city shown in the photographs of Neely’s arrest.
One photo and Facebook video clearly show Neely walking north on 23rd Street. The photograph shows Neely and the officers walking next to the Trinity Episcopal School. The video shows them in front of Star Drug Store. Both buildings are on 23rd Street.
In a statement to The Daily News, the city said its initial release was incorrect.
“The information was passed by word of mouth instead of the arrest record while trying to quickly gather the facts,” Galveston spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said. “The information via word of mouth was incorrect. As soon as the mistake was realized, it was corrected.”
The Daily News first asked about the discrepancy in addresses on Monday afternoon, 15 minutes after the police sent out its information about Neely’s arrest.
The department and the city did not confirm the mistake until Wednesday afternoon.
The location of Neely’s arrest paints different pictures of Saturday’s event. In using the department’s information, Neely would have been taken about two city blocks to a staging area at the corner of 21st and Market streets.
Using the location in the police report, he would have been taken four blocks.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale has apologized for causing Neely “unnecessary embarrassment” and said the two officers who arrested him made a bad decision to move Neely to 21st Street instead of calling for a vehicle.
The officers are still on duty as Hale investigates the incident, he said at a community meeting on Tuesday evening. On Monday, Hale said the officers would be “counseled” about their decision, but did not say they would be disciplined for it.
Neely’s family and some community members have called for the officers to be fired over the incident.
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the Galveston Municipal Police Association defended the officers’ decision to move Neely between the two horses.
“The technique that our officers utilized to escort Mr. Neely is an accepted practice nationwide,” said Geoff Gainer, the president of the police association. “It is race- and gender- neutral. It is a universal technique meant to protect the individual being escorted, as well as the public.”
The officers chose to move Neely using the horses because no police vehicles were available to pick him up and transport him to the county jail, Gainer said.
Hale has given the same explanation, but said the officers should have waited for a vehicle to come to them.
The police association welcomed Hale’s review of the department’s policies and procedures, Gainer said.
A STANDING ORDER
While the report does not indicate whether anyone called police about Neely before he was arrested Saturday, park board officials said Wednesday they had previously asked police to remove him from their property if he was seen there.
In a statement to the Daily News, the Galveston Park Board’s public relations director said she had no information about Neely’s arrest.
“Our offices were closed the day Mr. Neely was picked up,” Mary Beth Bassett said. “I don’t have any details about why the police were called and I imagine they can be found in the police report.”
In a phone interview made after the written statement, Bassett said the park board had previously asked the Galveston Police Department to keep Neely off its property.
That request was made “several months ago,” she said.
On July 11, a Galveston Police Department lieutenant emailed officers telling them to arrest “Donnie or any other transient” at the park board building.
“Donnie sleeps outside the building,” Lt. Pedro Alcocer wrote. “He is causing employees concern for their personal safety.”
The officers were not called to the park board office on Saturday, Barnett said.
“They saw him there and acted on that order,” she said.
Neely had been arrested for trespassing at the same address before. He had been charged with criminal trespassing seven times this year. Six of those times, he was arrested at 601 23rd St., according to court records.
The records list either park board employees or the U.S. Post Office, which is housed in the same building, as the victims of the trespassing.
It’s unclear what process the park board used to have Neely banned from the property. The park board is a public entity and owns the land at 601 23rd St. It has leased space to the post office since 2018.
Neely suffers from bipolar disorder, refuses to take his prescribed medication and had been living on the streets for months, according to his family.