GALVESTON, Texas – At a community meeting Tuesday night, Galveston Police chief Vernon Hale urged everyone to “look at the totality of the circumstances” after images went viral of two white officers on horseback leading Donald Neely, a mentally ill black man, using a rope clipped to his handcuffs.
What did the chief say at the meeting?
Hale, before opening up the town hall-style meeting to questions: “I have to learn from it. My agency needs to learn from it. And I commit to you that we will do better.”
Hale insisted the officers were not malicious and said they will return to work Wednesday: “I know what the pictures show. I get it. But we have to look at the totality of the circumstances. I also know what I have in these officers, in their hearts.”
Hale said one of the officers had just been featured in a news article: “He was handing out blankets in the wintertime to homeless. That’s what’s in his heart.”
What did members of the community say at the meeting?
Hale listened to dozens of questions for a couple of hours from the crowd of 200 or so community members, including attorneys representing the family.
“It’s not excusable, they should be suspended or fired or dismissed or something,” one woman said to applause.
What did the Neely family attorneys say?
Crump, a civil rights attorney from Florida who flew into town to help represent the family, and attorney and family friend Melissa Morris, called for the officers to be fired.
“Those officers took advantage of a mentally ill black man,” Crump told Hale in front of the crowd. “Do you have the courage to do what is right, not just with words, but actions?"
“It’s the judgment of the officers who don’t understand the racial insensitivity of such a tactic,” Morris said to Hale. Later, she told reporters: “An innocent person wouldn’t have made this mistake. This was sinister.”
What did the Neely family say?
Donald Neely’s brother Andy said he was “disgusted” at the photos, and that they were "very, very degrading." He called for the officers to be fired.
Donald Neely’s only sister, Taranette, isn’t so sure.
“I don’t know what was going on in [the officers] minds, I just know that they should have thought it through," she said. "It didn’t look good.”
How does Donald Neely feel about the situation?
Donald Neely isn’t bothered or offended by what happened, his sister said.
“He said [the officers] treated him nice, he didn’t have any issues with them," Taranette said. "They were real nice.”