In the latest development in the deeply disturbing incident where Donald Neely was arrested on Aug. 3 for misdemeanor trespassing, the city of Galveston has asked the Texas attorney general’s office if it can stop the release of the officers’ body camera recordings. Also, the so-called “mounted patrol policy” that the city said the two officers used on Neely never existed, according to KHOU.
The Galveston County Daily News reports that the city believes it is “allowed to withhold the recordings under state law.” It reports:
The recordings are believed to have documented what two Galveston police officers said and did while they arrested Neely in downtown Galveston on Aug. 3. Critics of the arrest have called for the public release of the tapes, so they can judge the officers’ actions and their treatment of Neely.
In the letter, Assistant City Attorney Mehran Jadidi cited part of the Texas Occupations Code that allows body camera recordings to be withheld while the event it depicts is part of an administrative investigation.
“The city believes it must withhold the requested materials based on the exceptions state in the occupations code,” Jadidi said. “There is an ongoing investigation by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office into the incidents which are the subject of the body-worn camera footage.”
The Daily News further reports that the city appealed to the state attorney general and that that office typically has 90 days to respond.
But regardless of what the AG rules, those who were outraged by the imagery want those tapes released. Civil rights lawyer and activist Benjamin Crump, who is representing Neely and his family, last week announced a 30-day deadline to release the tapes publicly.
If not, Crump said he would organize a large civil rights march on Galveston on Sept. 15, according to a Crump operative.
Tezlyn Figaro, a spokeswoman for Crump, also told The Root that the country’s response to mental illness only seems to apply superficially to mass shootings.
“Mental illness has been discussed daily in response to mass shootings,” said Figaro. “If America cares about mental illness as they claim they do then why is there silence when a mentally ill black man was arrested for trespassing because he is homeless, then attached to a rope and led by a horse like a runaway slave through the same town, Galveston, Texas were the enslaved were freed in 1865 which in turn established the holiday known as Juneteenth?”
When we initially wrote that two Galveston, Texas, police officers paraded a mentally ill black man around downtown “like a runaway” slave, we never knew how deeply that imagery resonated with the city itself.
Apparently, Galveston is the site where Juneteenth originated—which is to say that Galveston is literally the place where southern slaves were freed on June 19, 1865.
So to see this man being made to walk through the streets, his handcuffs tied to a rope held by an officer (and we know the history of slave catchers and law enforcement), was a stark reminder of how far this city has come—and how far we have to go.