Relatives of Donald Neely, a black man who was led by rope down a street in Galveston, Tx., by two white police officers said the man has suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia most of his life and regularly sleeps on the streets, struggles they said officers should have known about based on his criminal history, reports the New York Times. Neely, 43, was arrested Saturday on a charge of criminal trespassing in a commercial neighborhood. The police said he had been warned several times not to trespass in the area. When a police car was not available, he was escorted by mounted police officers about four blocks to a nearby staging area, the Galveston Police Department said.
The scene was captured in a photograph by an onlooker and shared widely on social media, drawing national attention as it conjured for many images of slavery and mistreatment by whites of African Americans. Taranette Neely, Neely’s sister, said he was released 20 hours after his arrest. “They should have never did what they did, put a black man in between two horsemen that are white,” she said. Neely had been arrested six times already in 2019 on misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges, part of what his sister said was a long history of interactions with the police. Court records show dozens of arrests for mostly low-level crimes dating back to the mid-1990s. Residents questioned the officers’ conduct at a community meeting Tuesday organized by Police Chief Vernon Hale. Hale, who issued an apology on Facebook said that he would take the blame for what he called the officers’ “poor judgment.” Referring to the use of the rope escort, Hale said the police department has “stopped the practice immediately.”