Galveston, Texas — A Black man who was led by a rope by two white officers on horseback has sued a southeast Texas city and its police department for $1 million, saying he suffered humiliation and fear during his arrest. A lawsuit filed last week in Galveston County district court on behalf of Donald Neely, 44, alleged the officers’ conduct was “extreme and outrageous” and injured Neely and caused him emotional distress, news outlets reported, citing the court documents.
Neely is seeking a jury trial, reports CBS Houston affiliate KHOU-TV.
Photos of the August 2019 encounter showed Neely being led by the officers on a rope linked to handcuffs – reminiscent of pictures showing slaves in chains.
Neely, who was homeless at the time, was sleeping on a sidewalk when he was arrested for criminal trespass and led around the block to a mounted patrol staging area. In body-camera video, one officer could be heard twice saying that leading Neely by rope down city streets would look “bad.”
The lawsuit accused the city and the department of negligence, and stated that the officers should have known Neely would consider it offensive to be led on the rope “as though he was a slave.”
“Neely felt as though he was put on display as slaves once were,” the lawsuit stated.
In a statement at the time, Police Chief Vernon Hale called the tactic a “trained technique and best practice in some scenarios.” However, he said he believed his officers “showed poor judgment,” adding that the department since changed its policy to prevent use of the technique.
KHOU notes that investigators released police body cam footage from the encounter that quickly went viral and sparked outrage, prompting a formal apology from the department and a probe by the Texas Rangers.
That investigation determined the officers didn’t break the law.
Neely’s criminal trespass charge was dismissed in court. His lawsuit also alleges malicious prosecution connected to the charge.
City officials declined to comment on the lawsuit to news outlets.
A status conference was set for January.