Family, community groups continue push for answers in National City death investigation

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A San Diego family is continuing to push for answers in the death of a man who entered a National City police station seeking help but later ended up in a coma.

Family members said Earl McNeil was taken off life support on June 7, and he died at UC San Diego Medical Center Monday night.

On May 26, the 40-year-old entered the police station in search of help. Family members said he suffered from mental health problems.

McNeil’s family members said they did not know exactly what happened at the police station and have been asking for information on what led to his hospitalization.

RELATED: Man's death blamed on National City police

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, National City police provided additional details on what occurred on May 26:

On Saturday, May 26, 2018, at 5:27 am, Earl L. McNeil came to the National City Police Department and used the telephone in front of the station to contact dispatchers. Mr. McNeil told the dispatcher that he had a warrant, was high, and wanted to kill Jesus. Mr. McNeil then hung up the phone. As a result of the phone call, officers met with Mr. McNeil in front of the station. Mr. McNeil was agitated, made irrational statements, and acted paranoid.

While being arrested for suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, Mr. McNeil became combative, and continued to be agitated and acted paranoid. As a result officers used restraining force to place Mr. McNeil in a WRAP device, designed by Safe Restraints, Inc. The WRAP is a commonly used safe restraint system to achieve de-escalation. It was specifically designed to not hamper a person’s ability to breathe. During the arrest, Mr. McNeil was found to be in possession of a controlled substance. Mr. McNeil was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance, obstruct/resisting officers, and post-release community supervision violation.

Mr. McNeil was transported to County Jail for processing. During the transport, Mr. McNeil was intentionally hurting himself. During the intake process with county jail staff, Mr. McNeil continued to exhibit signs of agitation and paranoia and began to display signs of medical distress. National City Police Officers called for paramedics. Mr. McNeil was conscious and continued to interact with staff when paramedics arrived. A short time later, while paramedics were attending to Mr. McNeil he stopped breathing. Paramedics provided immediate medical care and resuscitated Mr. McNeil before transporting him to UCSD Medical Center.

Upon admission to the hospital, National City Police Supervisors were able to contact an out of state family member to inform them of Mr. McNeil’s hospitalization.

Additionally, police officials met with a second family member on May 30, 2018 at the police department. Chief Manuel Rodriguez, has also offered to meet with the family at their convenience. The McNeil family has chosen not to meet with the Police Chief without the presence of their attorney.

On Monday, June 11, 2018, Mr. McNeil was removed from life support and subsequently passed away. The National City Police Department offers our condolences to his family and friends.

As part of the established San Diego County Law Enforcement protocol, the County Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting an autopsy and investigation. It is our hope that we can learn more information on the circumstances that led to Mr. McNeil’s death.

“People want to know what happened to Mr. McNeil, and so do we”, said Chief Rodriguez. “I am hopeful the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s report will provide the answers to what happened to Mr. McNeil’s medical condition. Accountability and transparency are important to the National City Police Department and our community, but that can only happen when the system is allowed to work. Per protocol the police department is conducting an investigation and review of this incident, as is the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and U.S. Department of Justice.”

Chief Rodriguez added “Our residents and elected leaders established the Community Police Relations Commission (CPRC) to increase transparency between the police department and the community. The National City CPRC is one of three such entities that review police internal investigations in the county.”

The National City Police Department will continue to review the policies and procedures related to this investigation to ensure all processes and protocols were followed.

The National City Police Department will continue our mission to help, protect, and serve the community.

Family members said they were told McNeil was taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. But when they saw him at the hospital, they said he had bruises all over his forehead, had teeth missing, and had scars all over his face.

McNeil, according to his family, suffered brain and nerve damage that led to his placement in a coma.

Now, McNeil’s family is working with several community groups and calling on a San Diego County investigation into his death. They are also asking that Rodriguez resign as NCPD chief.

Additionally, the family and the community groups “are demanding all reports, video/audio footage and the names of the officers involved be made public immediately from the National City Police Department and San Diego County Sheriff's Central Jail.”

A statement from the family and groups read:

“The McNeil family and concerned community members are calling for justice for Earl McNeil. The FBI is launching an investigation into the death of Mr. McNeil at the hands of the National City Police Department. The family deserves answers to questions of how Mr. McNeil was treated and any officers responsible for mistreatment must be held accountable.“

Family members said Rodriguez contacted them Tuesday night and told them they would be allowed to see surveillance video in the coming days.

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