One of two mounted police officers who arrested a mentally ill man in August told his partner that he expected their tactics — clipping a line to the man’s handcuffs and leading him down the street — to draw criticism.
“This is gonna look really bad,” Officer Patrick Brosch said after his partner, Amanda Smith, clipped the line to Donald Neely’s cuffs.
The exchange is included in two body camera recordings of the Aug. 3 arrest released on Wednesday by the city of Galveston.
Neely, a previously homeless man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested for criminal trespassing in the 600 block of 23rd Street. Brosch and Smith clipped a rope line to Neely’s handcuffs and, riding their horses, led him several blocks. Images of the arrest posted on social media prompted accusations of racism and comparisons to slavery.
Galveston Police Chief Vernon Hale later apologized, saying the officers used poor judgment.
A spokeswoman for the city said in a statement that the recordings were being released in their entirety, although there is no audio during the first two minutes for technical reasons.
The audio of Brosch’s body camera begins with him addressing a handcuffed Neely sitting outside the Galveston Parks Board building where he was allegedly trespassing. Smith’s body camera footage begins moments earlier, showing the officers approaching the building, where Neely was lying down on an entrance ramp.
“You were asked by the property manager not to come back, ever,” Brosch said. “You’ve been arrested multiple times for a criminal trespass, and you know that.”
Brosch asked Smith if they should get a truck to transport Neely to the police station. Smith said she didn’t think their sergeant “would appreciate that,” mentioning a backlog of municipal warrants.
Brosch then hands Smith a rope line to clip to Neely’s handcuffs.
“This is gonna look really bad,” Brosch says. He repeated the statement three minutes later.
Brosch’s camera footage, which lasts over 27 minutes, shows Smith leading Neely down several blocks in downtown Galveston to a parking lot where the officers had left a police pickup truck with a horse trailer attached.
The process took just over nine minutes, according to the footage. Neely willingly complied with Brosch and Smith’s requests, and the officers interacted with him the entire time. Neely initially asked to wear a welder’s mask that he had with him, though Brosch removed it shortly after they started walking because it obstructed Neely’s vision.
“I’m not embarrassed,” Neely said repeatedly while walking.
Roughly two minutes after they started walking toward the parking lot, Smith said to Neely: “Stay next to me, because I’m gonna drag you if not. You have to stay next to me.”
When the officers arrived at the spot where their vehicle was parked, they waited with Neely still handcuffed and standing idly, the rope line still attached to him.
A Galveston Police Department SUV arrived about eight minutes later. After Brosch unclipped the line from Neely’s handcuffs, the officer led him to the back seat of his SUV. Before leaving, he asked Brosch for Neely’s name.
“Donald Neely. You don’t know him? Everyone in the jail knows who he is, don’t worry,” Brosch said.
Neither Neely’s attorney, Julie Ketterman, nor his family members responded to requests for comment about the body camera footage.
The city released the footage after receiving a copy of an administrative review of Neely’s arrest completed by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. That report, which has not been made public, will be reviewed by Hale, who will decide whether any further action against the arresting officers is appropriate. The officers were taken off patrol and are on “modified duty,” according to a city spokeswoman.
“The city supports the chief in any actions he deems to be appropriate; however, if the investigation identifies deficiencies in department policies or practices those will be addressed directly with the Chief,” said City Manager Brian Maxwell in a statement.
The Texas Rangers were tasked with conducting a criminal inquiry into Neely’s arrest. The Rangers concluded, with the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, that there was no basis for a criminal investigation.
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