GALVESTON

Before starting to walk Donald Neely across downtown Galveston on Aug. 3, police officer Patrick Brosch appeared to tell Amanda Smith, his partner on a horseback patrol, that their plan was going to get a reaction.

“This is going to look really bad,” Brosch said.

After encountering Neely on a Saturday afternoon while he slept in the shade of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees building, 601 23rd St., the officers considered their options in how to handle Neely.

As Brosch predicted, the decision to walk Neely between their horses through downtown streets to a parking lot four blocks away looked bad to many observers. After pictures of Neely began circulating on social media, the city and the police department were drawn into a glaring international spotlight and raised accusations of racism and questions about how the mentally ill and homeless are treated.

Critics compared the pictures of Neely being walked between two mounted officers while attached to a line to historic images of slavery and the Jim Crow era. Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale apologized for causing Neely “unnecessary embarrassment” and said the officers used poor judgment while choosing how to move Neely across town.

On Wednesday, almost two months exactly since Neely was arrested, the city uploaded the recordings made by Brosch and Smith’s body cameras. The recordings provided the clearest picture yet of how Neely was treated by the officers, and how they made the decision that led to the controversy.

STANDING ORDER

The recordings were taken from body cameras mounted to the officers’ chests. One is 19 minutes long, the other 27 minutes in duration. The officers’ voices can be heard clearly in the videos, as can parts of Neely’s conversations with them.

Both recordings begin after the officers had begun their interaction with Neely behind the park board building. The officers appeared familiar with Neely.

“You were asked by the property manager not to come back, ever,” Brosch said. “You’ve been arrested here multiple times for a criminal trespass. You know that.”

The officers had a standing order to arrest Neely if he was seen at the park board building, officials had previously confirmed. He’d been arrested for criminal trespassing at the same building six times in 2019.

At times in the video, the officers appear to express apprehension in the directions they received to take Neely into custody.

City officials, including Hale, have said the officers chose to move Neely to a staging area four blocks away because a patrol vehicle had been assigned to the downtown district was already traveling to the county jail because of an earlier arrest.

The officers appear to double-check they have orders to arrest Neely, and then begin to discuss how they should proceed.

A CORDIAL ARREST

Brosch asked Smith whether she should ride back to where the officers had parked their truck and horse trailer and then drive back to Neely, but she dismissed the idea and said her supervisor didn’t like partners splitting up.

The officers attached him to a line and began to walk him across town. Twice, Brosch appears to say he had apprehensions about the decision — even as Neely said he wasn’t embarrassed by the treatment he was receiving.

“This is going to look so bad,” Brosch said. “I’m glad you’re not embarrassed Mr. Neely.”

The video was released Wednesday morning after the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office notified the city it had completed its administrative review of the arrest. On Aug. 8, the city asked the sheriff’s office to conduct the review of the officer’s action amid the intensifying public scrutiny of the arrest.

Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said Wednesday the review was conducted by his department’s two-person internal investigations unit. Trochesset read the review of the investigation and said that, to his knowledge, the police department cooperated with the third-party investigation.

Trochesset declined to comment on the content of the review, and said he wanted to give Hale and the city time to react to it.

The videos show the officers acting cordially with Neely. When Neely is first handcuffed, Brosch helps gathers his belongings and hands Neely a cup of change and a shirt, and puts a welding mask on Neely’s head at Neely’s request. Neely was known to wear a mask around the city before his arrest.

OPEN TO INTERPRETATION

Brosch also would later remove the mask as the horses approached the intersection of 23rd and Church streets, after it appeared Neely was having trouble seeing or walking.

It was at that intersection that Smith gave a warning to Neely.

“Stand next to me because I’m going to drag you if not,” Smith said. “You have to stand next to me.” Two minutes later, Smith told Neely she was trying to make sure he didn’t get hurt while they walked.

That exchange was heard by at least one person who was near the officers while they were walking with Neely. That person told The Daily News in August she interpreted the words as a threat. City officials at the time said Smith’s words could be open to interpretation, and regarded as a word of caution.

Immediately after Smith’s warning, Neely said he wasn’t going to complain and made a comment about not being able to make a phone call. The officers did not drag him.

The officers and Neely walked north along 23rd Street and then east on Market Street to a horse trailer waiting in a parking lot behind the vacant Medical Arts Building, 302 21st St.

‘DIRECTIVE FROM ABOVE’

Cars and other vehicles drove by the officers as they walked with Neely, and the group passed multiple people on the way to the staging area, including one woman who appeared to ask the officers for directions.

Once the officers arrived at the parking lot, they waited for about five minutes before another police vehicle, an SUV, arrived to take Neely to the county jail. Brosch told the officer who was driving the SUV the decision to arrest him was a “directive from above.”

The release of the video does not end the police department’s review of Neely’s arrest. With the conclusion of the sheriff’s office administrative review, the issue now is in Hales hands.

Hale on Wednesday said he would review the Sheriff Office’s report before deciding whether he would recommend any discipline against the officers. Both Brosch and Smith have been on modified duty since the start of the controversy, officials said. The duty is not a punishment, officials said, but does take the officers away from their normal duties.

“I appreciate the efforts of Sheriff Henry Trochesset and thank the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office for taking the time to perform a thorough, independent review of the arrest,” Hale said. “I am studying the report now and will use its findings to make decisions in the near future about the next steps for the department.”

A second outside review conducted by the Texas Rangers concluded there was no evidence the officers committed any criminal violations while arresting Neely.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(23) comments

Wayne Holt

I think it is fair to say that the body cam videos, if anything, cast an even more favorable light on the two officers than what was expected. There was concern for Mr. Neely's physical safety, for his mental state; there was respect for him in how he was addressed; there was apprehension that what they were doing was "by the book" but bad optics. That turned out to be a huge understatement when it became into an international news story.

One could go on and on but the bottom line is both officers and the Galveston Police Department were clearly not angling to make this a racist interaction...and are owed an apology commensurate with the public scorn they had to endure during the investigation.

We'll see who has the integrity of character to publicly admit they jumped to false conclusions and assassinated the character of the officers, the department and the community.

Anyone pressing further in this race baiting swindle should join Mr. Neely in seeking serious psychiatric intervention. That goes double for the "faith leaders" and "civil rights activists" who shut down our streets for hours in their Caravan to Nowhere.

Kerry Riggs

Sorry, I disagree, but they could have called for a cruiser immediately! What they did was disgraceful. I only day this after last listening to their conversation now. Fire them! But for th we Grace of God goes ANY one of us that might not look or act just right according to our Galveston mounted Patrol!😠

Carlos Ponce

"but they could have called for a cruiser immediately!" They did! One was not available for an indeterminate length of time.

Tamala Robinson

yes they were cordial, but the officers knew there would be backlash from this. If you are apprehensive, use common sense. This is how my race was treated during slavery, so yes this opened up wounds by many that was not fully closed or healed. Their intent was not to be mean and ugly, but sometimes intent is not enough. Just don't do it. If you think that it will look bad, it will look even worse by those who are watching if you do it.

Carlos Ponce

"Just don't do it." But they acted upon training. If they didn't, they would be subject to discipline.

Emile Pope

“Stand next to me because I’m going to drag you if not,”...Those officers aren't owed anything...

Stephen Murphy

“Stand next to me because I’m going to drag you if not,” Smith said. “You have to stand next to me.” Two minutes later, Smith told Neely she was trying to make sure he didn’t get hurt while they walked.



The officer was trying to make a point. A horse can weight over 1,000 lbs. Some horses can weigh much more. The officer was trying to keep Mr. Neely from being dragged by the horse and from being injured. Granted, she could have chosen different words in making her point, but I have serious doubts she was actually going to drag Mr. Neely down a public street, especially after they had already admitted that the arrest was going to "look really bad". Mr. Neely was treated with respect during the whole episode. When asked, he even admitted as much.

Emile Pope

Spare me. Horses don't have hands. The only way a horse can drag someone is if they are attached by something strong enough to drag them. So why would they attach a thousand pound animal with the potential to injure (kick or bite) or drag to someone they are unfamiliar with? The arrest looked bad because it was bad...

Carlos Ponce

"So why would they attach a thousand pound animal with the potential to injure (kick or bite) or drag to someone they are unfamiliar with? " Donald Neely was attached to the police woman, not a "thousand pound animal".

Emile Pope

Mounted on a horse...they knew what they were saying.

Carlos Ponce

Problem is - Emile doesn't.

Wayne Holt

So why would they attach a thousand pound animal with the potential to injure (kick or bite) or drag to someone they are unfamiliar with?

Ummm...because that was what their training prescribed? Just guessing here. Unless a police department only arrests close friends, it is very likely every arrestee will be unfamiliar.

Wayne Holt

If I tell you, "Stand back from that ledge or you may die," doesn't mean I'm threatening to murder you. When a police officer ducks an arrested person's head when they are loading them into the back seat of a cruiser, it's not an assault, it's to keep from them hitting their head.

I am 100% sure if the officer had never said that and Neely was injured, there would have been howls about how the officers were racists because they never told him what was expected.

How much more mileage are you going to try to squeeze out of this totally discredited narrative?

Lisa Blair

The issue is how certain persons are treated by the police because those persons lack the power to assert their rights. The disenfranchised, homeless, mentally ill, and poor. They must depend on us to do the right thing. These officers knew that what they were doing “looked really bad”. They had many other options. This is about how we chose to treat each other and how this city chooses to care for the less fortunate among us.

Notice that GMPA has been silent. Will they continue to demand an apology to the officers? Are they going to defend the officers actions? Tick tock, we’re waiting.

Wayne Holt

This is about how we chose to treat each other and how this city chooses to care for the less fortunate among us.

I would think it says more about the long-suffering patience of the Park Board staff and the City in tolerating multiple criminal trespasses without pressing for punitive measures. They showed understanding of the situation in dealing with Mr. Neely's mental health issues over the past year or more.

Do cities like Galveston normally have well developed mental health programs in place or is that a county and state area of care? Because you are talking about official responses and not what we, as individuals and service organizations, may do. The police department's primary responsibility is citizen protection, which they are expected to carry out in a fair way and with courtesy as appropriate. They are not a mounted psychiatric unit or there for therapeutic purposes; others have that responsibility.

Lisa Blair

Not suggesting that they provide therapeutic services, just that they treat the homeless, poor, and mentally ill with dignity and respect.

Cry me a river about the Park Board’s “long suffering”. Until we decide as a community to address the issue of homelessness we’re just all going to have to “tolerate” our fellow human beings.

Keith Gray

I think the right thing was to get him out of the 98 degree heat that day. Maybe they should have asked him, we can wait on a cruiser in the heat for ??? amount of time, or we can take you a block or two and get you in some A/C....

Wayne Holt

I will be the first person to call out anyone, police officer or not, if they appear to be acting in a way that is outside the law or human decency. But this episode should make it abundantly clear that some folks want to pin the racist tag on police officers regardless of fact, video record, the words of the arrestee, the words of the officers and basic objective logic.

Anyone who sees racist intent at this point would make a great case study in hysterics. I can only assume this is how the Salem Witch Trials developed.

Lisa Blair

Race can be a disenfranchisement in and of itself and can make it easier for the police to possibly infringe upon your rights. Wayne, you or I would have NEVER allowed the police to treat us this way. That’s the issue.

Wayne Holt

Just to correct: there was NO infringement of any recognized right, civil or criminal. There was an optics issue. Optics are not recognized by US courts as legally protected rights.

I was stopped for criminal trespass less than a year ago (this was NOT the GPD). The sergeant on the stop was unaware of jurisdictional limits, public access and what their commission allowed them to do as far as enforcement. I am nearly 70, white, and I was treated with less sympathy than Mr. Neely received by GPD officers.

I can assure you if I had protested this curbside I would have been handcuffed and taken in, minus a welder's mask. If the officer had been on a horse, I probably would have had to walk alongside it. I signed, took it up the next day with the appropriate legal folks who do know the law and it was resolved very quickly in my favor.

It is not about race, it is about knowing what your rights are, what police are allowed to do, and using the appropriate response to enforce your rights. I am always very pleased when I see anyone who has taken the time to understand their rights, what the limits are to them as well as police powers, and knows how to use the system to preserve justice for all. Are there racist police officers? Sure, just like there are "faith leaders" and "civil rights activists" who never heard of a situation that couldn't be construed as racist.

As long as Americans can name every lineman playing for their favorite NFL team but haven't a clue about their rights and how to enforce them, there will be violations of varying significance. This incident doesn't even move the needle.

Don Schlessinger

[thumbup]

Kathy Bee

The color of Mr. Neely's skin does not matter.....You DO NOT arrest and escort a known mental health consumer down the middle of the street in unrestricted view of the public. And then the officer says twice while he chuckles "This is not going to look good". Which means he knew a poor decision was being made.

Charlotte O'rourke

Let the Chief do his job. He is capable, and trained to do so. People’s perspective (feelings) of the right or wrong of this issue isn’t going to change. Values and beliefs are formed through life experiences.

We shouldn’t try to change feelings - they are what they are.

But decisions need to be based on fact.

It is why employees are trained to follow the policies and procedures of their employers. Deviations of policy are usually dealt with by loss of employment.

All people deserve to be treated fairly and with respect - that includes the Mr. Neely’s of this world as well as the hard working, public servants that work a dangerous and frequently thankless job.

Repeating - Let the Chief do the job that he is paid to do. He is trained to do so, and has all of the facts.

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