Group wants San Diego County District Attorney's Office removed from death investigation

Posted at 12:20 PM, Aug 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 15:31:35-04

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) - The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is being urged to recuse itself in the investigation of a man who died after he was taken into National City police custody.

On Wednesday, community leaders, family members and friends asked that county District Attorney Summer Stephan and her office not be involved in the investigation into Earl McNeil’s death. They said McNeil’s role as a paid informant for the district attorney’s office in past cases creates a conflict of interest.

The group San Diegans for Criminal Justice Reform sent a letter to the district attorney's office to request the recusal.

Family members said the 40-year-old McNeil went to National City Police Department headquarters on May 26, 2018, in search of help. McNeil suffered from mental health problems, according to his family.

According to National City police, McNeil was acting erratically and making threats, and he told them that he was in possession of drugs. Police said McNeil was responsive -- yelling, talking and alert -- the entire time he was in custody. He stopped breathing in the back of an ambulance as it was parked in the County Jail area, police said.


Police said he was taken to the hospital after suffering an apparent heart attack.

However, McNeil’s family said he had bruises on his body and suffered brain and nerve damage when they saw him in the hospital. He was eventually taken off life support in early June.

Since his death, family members have asked that police release body camera footage and other recordings that may help shed light on the incident.

In July, four straight National City Council meetings were interrupted by protesters calling for the chief's resignation and more information on McNeil's death brought to light.

After their investigation was concluded, National City police turned their findings over to the district attorney’s office.

10News reached out to the district attorney's office for comment, and a spokesperson said the district attorney "has prioritized the review of this case and will review it in a thorough and objective manner."

The district attorney's office has contacted the state Attorney General's Office to request their opinion on whether there is legal basis for recusal.

10News learned the district attorney's office is including the FBI's Civil Rights Division and is sharing all information with that agency.