After handcuffing Donald Neely and attaching him to a line so he could be led down the street behind a pair of horses, a Galveston police officer told Neely he would be dragged in the street if he didn’t walk with them, according to a witness who saw the arrest as it took place.

The witness, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared for her safety if she were identified, said she saw officers Amanda Smith and Patrick Brosch walking with Neely at the intersection of 23rd and Church streets, where he was arrested for trespassing Aug. 3.

The witness was with her family and was returning to her car from a downtown event when she walked by the officers and Neely, she said.

“We were going to walk across the street, and that’s when I heard her say, ‘If you don’t keep walking, I’m going to drag you,’” the witness said.

The witness said she believed the words were spoken by a woman. The witness believed the officer’s words were a threat against Neely, she said.

Multiple city and police officials have seen body camera images recorded by the officers on the day of an arrest that inspired worldwide outrage. The city has so far not released the recordings.

The city announced Thursday it would not be releasing any more details about Neely’s arrest because it had become the subject of criminal and administrative investigations.

City officials — including Police Chief Vernon Hale, City Manager Brian Maxwell, City Attorney Donald Glywasky and two public informations officers — were notified about the witness’ account Thursday evening and given the opportunity to refute the witness’ description of the events.

In a statement to The Daily News, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett acknowledged that independent investigators were looking into comments the witness described.

“The Galveston Police Department remains committed to uncovering all the facts in this case,” Barnett said. “Throughout this process, investigators have reviewed the statement made by one of the arresting officers (mentioned in your questions). As with any investigation, one statement must be evaluated within the context of the entire encounter.”

One city official, who did not agree to be named, said it was “debatable” that the officer’s words could be interpreted as a threat.

Another official, who did not agree to be named, said the statement could be interpreted as either a threat or a warning for Neely to be careful as he walked down the street.

The Daily News has filed a request under the state’s open record law for copies of recordings made by both officers’ body cameras. The city had not responded to the requests as of Friday.

The officers’ words are almost sure to increase the criticism of the police officers’ actions while arresting Neely. They have not been reported before and as of Friday, had been unknown to Neely’s attorneys.

“I believe that’s the reason the chief immediately issued an apology, because he was trying to bury it,” said Melissa Morris, one of Neely’s attorneys.

Neely, who is homeless and suffers from bipolar disorder, was arrested for criminal trespassing at the Galveston Park Board of Trustees office building, at 601 23d St. Galveston police department officers had a standing order to arrest him if he was seen on the property, city officials said.

Just before 5 p.m. Aug. 3, a busy summer Saturday in Galveston’s touristy downtown, police officers Brosch and Smith approached Neely and arrested him. They handcuffed Neely, then attached him to a line one of the officers held.

The officers then walked Neely north on 23rd Street on their way to a staging area near the intersection of 21st and Market streets, where the officers had parked a horse trailer and vehicles.

The officers decided to walk Neely four blocks to the staging area instead of waiting for a police car to arrive and pick him up on 23rd Street because no police units were immediately available, officials said.

The witness told The Daily News she couldn’t believe what she saw.

The witness was standing on the street corner near the Coastal Community Federal Credit Union and could see that Neely was wearing a boxy mask while walking with the officers, she said.

“It looked like he was either tripping or stumbling,” she said. “He was having a hard time walking with that thing on.”

It did not appear that Neely was resisting the police officers, she said.

A video of the arrest posted by a different person showed the police officers removing a welder’s mask from Neely’s head as they stopped at the intersection of 23rd Street and Church Street, the same area where the witness saw Neely.

Multiple people photographed Neely being walked behind the mounted officers.

When the images were posted on social media Monday, they sparked worldwide outrage and criticism of the Galveston Police Department.

Critics of the department have said the officers’ choice to move Neely through the city’s streets while attached to the rope was racist, and compared the photographs to historic images of slavery.

Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale on Monday apologized for causing Neely “unnecessary embarrassment” and immediately suspended the technique used by the officers.

The method used to move Neely was a trained technique and was done properly, Hale said. However, he said the officers used poor judgment in choosing to move Neely at all instead of waiting for a police car to come to them.

At a community meeting Tuesday night, Hale faulted himself for not having the foresight to have better controls on how mounted police officers move arrestees.

The Galveston Municipal Police Association, a union representing police officers, has defended the officers’ actions. The officers were acting in accordance with their training, according to the union.

The union has pointed to other instances of people being attached to leads by mounted officers as evidence that Neely was not treated differently than other people.

In a statement sent on Saturday evening, police association president Geoff Gainer said he was not aware of Neely ever being mistreated by Galveston police officers.

Gainer said he could not comment more on the incident because of the independent investigation and because he is a city employee.

“I am confident these investigations will both show our officers performed their duties with professionalism and compassion while being presented with a difficult situation,” Gainer said.

Morris, who was retained by Neely’s family, said Tuesday that Neely didn’t feel violated by the police department’s treatment.

Neely did, however, fear he would be dragged by the horses if he did not cooperate with the police officers, Morris said Friday.

“He was afraid that the horses were going to drag him,” Morris said. “He said they were nice to him, they didn’t hurt him but he was afraid they were going to make the horses run.”

Neely did not tell Morris the officers verbally threatened to drag him, she said. She believed that the witness’ comments explained why Morris was afraid.

Neely’s attorneys are expected to announce a civil lawsuit against the city Monday.

The city has not announced whether or how the officers would be disciplined for their actions. That decision is left up to Hale, who has said they would be “counseled” about their actions.

The Texas Rangers and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, will conduct independent investigations into Neely’s arrest, the city announced Thursday.

The Rangers investigation is a criminal inquiry, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


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(40) comments

Samuel Collins III

This is a human race issue. Even if the officer was simply warning Mr. Neely walk upright or walk straight because you may be dragged it should have been a light bulb moment to stop and wait for a patrol car. Don't start with the don't do the crime comments. No human should fear being dragged intentionally or by accident. Just because it may have been a best practice for over 100 years. It is not a best practice in 2019. Officers definitely should be able to be mounted on horses to see into crowds, but there is no need to use this technique. Wait for a patrol car or another officer on foot patrol to arrive after arresting the individual. As for this argument once on the horse they can't get off. Hello somebody! They had to get off to handcuff him. At that point stay on the ground with him.

Erin Toberman

I completely agree with you, Mr Collins.

Carlos Ponce

"according to a witness" who chooses to remain anonymous.....

Donald Neely's sister, Taranette, told Channel 2 News (KPRC), “He said [the officers] treated him nice, he didn’t have any issues with them," Taranette said. "They were real nice.”

Now Taranette and Donald's brother had problems with their brother's treatment while being arrested but Donald Neely did not.

Samuel Collins III

Mr. Ponce you are missing the point. We should not be using this technique on any human being in 2019. If you have to arrest someone go ahead and arrest him or her. You do not need to walk them down the street while sitting on a horse. Not just because of optics. If it is possible they may be dragged just wait on a patrol car.

Carlos Ponce

Not missing the point at all. If there is an alternative then they should use it. None available for an indeterminate amount of time. No chance of the man being dragged. Think about it. Neely was tethered, not tied to the saddle horn. And at the other end of the tether was the police woman. Enough force to drag the man down would pull her down to the ground as well. She would let go of the tether if the horse was spooked otherwise be thrown to the ground and possibly hurt. When a horse is spooked, a rider grabs the reigns with BOTH HANDS to regain control. A tether would get in the way. She would drop it. Try it next time you ride a horse.

Charles Hughes

Mr. Collins if you read these columns regularly you will understand the mindset of some of these commentators. There's nothing to see here. No such thing as racism, discrimination, or bigotry. Just sit back and listen you'll see.

Carlos Ponce

"Just sit back and listen you'll see" truth.

There is REAL racism, REAL discrimination, REAL bigotry. Calling everybody you disagree with, every arrest "racist" is wrong where is none. The terms "racist" and "racism" are being tossed about like beads at a Mardi Gras parade. They lose their meaning when used where there is NO RACISM involved. Same for discrimination. There was NO discrimination here. Whites were treated exactly the same as Donald Neely. There was no "bigotry" here. If you think there was racism, discrimination and bigotry here ONLY because the man involved was Black - then you're the RACIST. You are judging people by the color of their skin.

Emile Pope

So tell me of real racism, real discrimination, real bigotry. Name examples you’re seen. You can’t because you refuse to see it. Whatever...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, look at the unusually high percentage of Black babies killed through abortion. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, wanted the extermination of undesirables (she considered Blacks undesirable) from this country. Looks like the modern day racists are fulfilling her goal.

Jim Forsythe

Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921,which changed its name to Planned Parenthood in 1942. In June 1928, Margaret Sanger resigned as president of the American Birth Control League, founding the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control and splitting the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau from the League. In 1939 the two were reconciled and merged to form the Birth Control Federation of America In 1942 the name was changed to Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Fact, Planned Parenthood did not even begin performing abortions until after 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade legalized the practice. Margaret Sanger had been dead for four years by then.

In Margaret Sanger's own words, “[a]lthough abortion may be resorted to in order to save the life of the mother, the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious.”

In her seminal book Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts points out that leaders in the Black community actually welcomed Sanger’s birth control agenda in the 1930s, and even criticized it for not going far enough to serve Black people.

Due to segregation policies in the South, the birth control clinics that opened in the 1930s were for white women only. Sanger wanted to change that. She sought to open clinics in the South staffed by Black doctors and nurses, and to educate Black women about contraception. In 1939, she had been named honorary chairman of the board of Birth Control Federation of America (the precursor to Planned Parenthood)

Planned Parenthood lobbied the federal government to support reproductive health, culminating with President Richard Nixon's signing of Title X to provide governmental subsidies for low-income women to access family planning service

Emile Pope

So the only racism you see today is abortion? You just proved Mr. Hughes’s point...

Carlos Ponce

Margaret Sanger believe in eugenics and was a racist. There has been a push to "whitewash" any traces of this in various media.

Carlos Ponce

"So the only racism you see today is abortion?" No, Emile. You wanted an example, I gave you an example.

Emile Pope

Sanger wasn’t a racist and she died in 1966. So you position is that racists and racism died 52 years ago?

Carlos Ponce

Margaret Sanger was a racist and her legacy lives on in Planned Parenthood and those who promote it.

Dr. Ben Carson said that birth control activist Margaret Sanger "believed that people like me should be eliminated." He later clarified that he meant African-Americans.

In a letter to Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, December 10, 1939 Margaret Sanger wrote, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population."

In her autobiography Sanger wrote, “I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan... I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak...In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.”

Jim Forsythe

But it is simply untrue that Margaret Sanger wanted to exterminate the Black race. This is a flat-out lie. Yet it is one that is repeated ad nauseum, both by anti-choice activists and the politicians who support them, most recently Ben Carson.

In propagating this lie, anti-choicers infantilize Black women and strip them of their agency: They portray Margaret Sanger’s birth control agenda as something that was done to Black women, rather than something in which Black women and much of the Black community as a whole enthusiastically participated.

Margaret Sanger would talk to any group about birth control, including the KKK.

But before you recoil in abject horror, remember that the KKK was a powerful political movement at the time—five U.S. presidents were members of the KKK at one point or another—and if Sanger could convince the ladies of the KKK of the benefits of birth control, then it was worth it to her. That certainly doesn’t excuse her turning to this country’s most notorious domestic terrorist group for support but there was no one whom Sanger wouldn’t talk to about birth control.

We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” might be Planned Parenthood opponents’ favorite. It is culled from a 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, heir to the Proctor & Gamble fortune. That context wasn’t about hiding the “true exterminatory purpose” of the Negro Project from Black people. Rather, it was about elucidating the true purpose of the project—disseminating birth control in Black communities in the South—and training Black doctors to work within their own communities:

A related memo written by Dr. Gamble in 1939 clarifies the point: There is great danger that we [the Negro Project] will fail because the Negroes think it a plan for extermination.

Carlos Ponce

"But it is simply untrue that Margaret Sanger wanted to exterminate the Black race."

It seems like the efforts of Planned Parenthood to rewrite history has paid off. They've convinced Jim.

Jim Forsythe

As with many, Margaret Sanger was not a perfect person. What part of what I posted is untrue?

It was true that she died before Planned Parenthood started providing abortions?

It was true that she helped disseminating birth control in Black communities in the South—and training Black doctors to work within their own communities:

It was true that leaders in the Black community actually welcomed Sanger’s birth control agenda in the 1930s, and even criticized it for not going far enough to serve Black people.

It was true that Margaret Sanger's said “[a]lthough abortion may be resorted to in order to save the life of the mother, the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious.”

David Smith

They were following PROTOCOL

Clinton Stevens

Irresponsible. I hope that no officers get hurt because of the media coverage surrounding this incident.

Emile Pope

Of course you can name times that has happened...

Clinton Stevens

July 7th, 2016. Dallas, TX. Five officers shot and killed, the perpetrator stated he was angry over recent police shootings and wanted to kill white police officers.

Emile Pope

Really? Tell me of violent actions against cops based upon non-violent actions they’ve taken.

Bailey Jones

We have witnesses and witness video, we have body camera video, we have independent investigators. All will be made clear, and I'm confident that the chief will take whatever action is appropriate.

Erin Toberman

I agree with you.

Wayne Holt

While this discussion certainly can and should have raised the issue of appropriateness of using that specific tactic, Chief Hale has already gone over that ground many times now and put remedies in place. So there was a problem that was recognized and hopefully fixed for good.

The lingering issue seems to be those who insist on finding a racist component to this story. What do you think a police officer says to anyone under arrest who will not walk to a patrol car from a distance? Probably the exact same words. Does the fact they were mounted, or were white officers, make it undeniably racist? If so, I wish someone calling for these officers' heads would connect the dots for us on that, so we can examine exactly what is the line of reasoning there.

This was bad optics and emotionally charged because of the associations. Nothing that has been reported has shown evidence of racist intent, disparity of suspect treatment or an attempt to cover for the officers. How do you have a civil rights violation when no civil rights were violated?

Emile Pope

Describe “racist intent” and how is it proven?

Wayne Holt

Racist intent is simple to prove. Is there any shred of credible proof that something was said, done, implied or threatened on a stop that was done out of racial animosity? Words chosen or tone of voice used? Has the officer involved had a history of this type of behavior? Anything in his/her record indicating a problem with dealing with other races?

If not, your opinion that racism still exists is no more credible than me bloviating on what I think is on the dark side of the moon, i.e. of no factual value.

You seem to believe that anything is racist that you think is racist. Convenient for you but, of course, impossible to use coherently in any reasoned discussion as anyone else could make the same point. This all should be obvious but I guess I assume too much.

Emile Pope

Really? So the only way racism can be proven is if the person accused admits to being racist? According to that ridiculous theory a person can commit any racist act as long as they deny being racist. Maybe we could conduct trials like that. “We have him on video robbing the bank but he says he’s dismissed!”

Carlos Ponce

Is being a racist a crime in Texas? No. Being a racist can, however, be used against an individual accused of a hate crime in court.

Josh Butler

I find it a little disturbing that the GDN is fanning the flames of this incident with anonymous witnesses. I view it as irresponsible reporting.

Debra Criss

Gainer is quoted as saying he will make no further comments due to the ongoing investigation and that he is a city employee in this article. Yet I see City employees making comments in this thread and on social media. What is the City policy for this now that an investigation is underway?

Debra Criss

In today’s article, Gainer was quoted as saying he will have no further comments because of the investigation and he is. City employee. I am curious about what the policy is for comments here by active employees and on other social media ? There are no shortage of comments.

Debra Criss

Sorry for the error in the post. Should be “he is a City employee.”

Charles Douglas

Mr Holt, sir you just don't understand. See, fixing the problem is not enough. This is an election year and there has to be ten pounds of flesh and five gallons of blood extracted! This is what it looks like for all practical purposes! The left leaning political party wants their power back that Barry Obama was supposed to turnover the sceptre of power to Crooked Hilliary, but it did not occur, not even with their insurance policy in place. They are in full mode trying to discredit Christians, God, and love. They want to confiscate your cars, lawnmowers, weedeaters, and guns! They want to close down all of our jobs based on fossil fuel which God himself has supplied for our prosperity. They want open borders, and the dismissal of all ICE and BORDER PATROL AGENTS! They want to relegate our military to the level of being incompetent, and being like those in Europe, entangled in a system ruled by one country and one man! That's the exact recipe conducive for the coming of the ANTICHRIST!!!! Lastly ....they HATE THE POLICE! Mr. Holt, watch them, ..they speak on one accord, always using the same words! In election years all they have to offer is destructive words and no plans worth a hoot! Everybody is RACIST, WHITE SUPREMACIST, KKK, and HATE Mongers!!! That's all they got! Black unemployment is at the lowest level in this country in history, and for Hispanics too! Unemployment for women is at the lowest levels in seventy years, and all you can hear is RACIST, kill the police! It's sick-ni-fying and pathetic! All you hear is Hate! What's the difference between racism, practiced on an individual and the same individual practicing HATE on the RACIST? Ahhhhh ha ... yeah! Now we have Houston Attorneys in here in record time, who want their cut.

Emile Pope

You couldn’t even get the election year correct...

Charles Douglas

Close enough!!!!!

Emile Pope

Couldn’t be farther off...

Wayne Holt

Emile, you just proved my point yet again: " “We have him on video robbing the bank but he says he’s dismissed!”

Well, we do have a video of the incident and from what we know so far, they are innocent. Nothing illegal was done, no disparity of treatment was shown, no police policy was abridged and the suspect himself says the officers were downright nice to him. So...your analogy is 180 degrees out of whack with the reality of this stop.

I cannot believe for one moment that a normal adult with command of his faculties such as you are can fail to see this. Is it that difficult to just admit that it appears the intention of the officers in this instance was not racist?

Harvey Mueller

What is the difference when an officer tells a suspect to get in the cruiser and if you don't we'll forcibly put you in there?

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