Horseback cops lead handcuffed man down Texas street, apologize for ‘embarrassment’

Police in Galveston, Texas, are apologizing after two officers on horseback led a handcuffed man through the street over the weekend — an incident that was caught on camera and went viral on Facebook and Twitter.

“Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance,” Galveston Police Department Chief Vernon L. Hale III said in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday night.

Police said the man shown in handcuffs in the photos was Donald Neely, 43, who was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing on Saturday and “had been warned against trespassing on this specific location several times.” The Houston Chronicle reported that Neely has since been released on bond and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Hale said in a statement that “first and foremost, I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment.”

Transporting a suspect with the use of mounted officers “is considered a best practice in certain scenarios, such as during crowd control,” the Galveston Police Department said. But police added that “the practice was not used correctly in this instance.”

Local police said they will stop using the technique altogether.

“My officers did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest,” Hale said, “but we have immediately changed the policy to prevent the use of this technique and will review all mounted training and procedures for more appropriate methods.”

Adrienne Bell, a Democrat running to represent Texas’ 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote on Facebook on Monday that “we have verified with law enforcement officials in Galveston, that the photograph taken in Galveston is real.”

Her Facebook post was shared around 20,000 times within hours.

Bell shared photos that were apparently from the incident on Facebook and Twitter.

“It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers,” Bell wrote. “It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community.”

The Galveston Police Department said that, although it may appear the man is being led by a rope tied to his hands, he was actually “handcuffed, and a line was clipped to the handcuffs.”

Bell said that “we will be watching for the Galveston Police Department’s response to their investigation of this matter and the accountability of the officers involved. Swift action is needed to ensure that no one is demeaned in this manner again, and arrest procedures are fair, just, and humane.”

Writer and civil rights activist Shaun King wrote in a Monday tweet addressed to the Galveston Police Department that “I would say ‘We need answers,’ but nothing you can say would ever justify what you did to this man. Nothing at all.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.