National City Police Chief responds to chaos at city council meetings

Posted at 8:11 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 23:11:00-04

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) - Angered over the in-custody death of Earl McNeil, protesters disrupted the fourth straight city council meeting in National City.

The meeting was a continuation of the session the night before, which was ended early after the crowd became unruly. Three people were arrested Tuesday night.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city council resumed the meeting, voting on several agenda items. At times, protesters would shout at the city council members who were speaking.

At the end, the public was given a chance to speak. After several speakers, the crowd became unruly once again.

“I do think disruption is important because it’s agitation and out of agitation brings change,” said Christina Griffin, a member of Black Lives Matter San Diego.

She was at Wednesday’s meeting where she and other protesters called for more accountability from the National City Police Department.

Their anger stems from the in-custody death of Earl McNeil. He was arrest on May — after he called police on himself while standing outside the police department.

National City Police responded and arrested him for suspicion of being under the influence. They said McNeil was agitated and making irrational statements.

According to the latest statement to the media, McNeil was being combative so he was placed in a WRAP device, similar to a full body straight jacket.

From the police department, he was taken to San Diego County Jail. On the ride, police say he was intentionally trying to hurt himself, though they did not describe the manner or the extent of the injuries. 

It was during the intake process that police say McNeil started to show signs of “mental distress.” After the paramedics arrived, McNeil lost consciousness and was taken to UCSD medical center.

During the entire time, 10News has learned the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) was not called. In an interview with 10News, Chief Manuel Rodriguez defended his officers’ actions, asserting this was a drug arrest, not a mental health situation.

“There is no way the officers would know anything about his mental health status,” said Chief Rodriguez.

The Medical Examiner has not yet released a cause of death or toxicology report. However, the chief seemed confident McNeil’s death was not inflicted by his officers.

“These false narratives that somehow our officers did something to him, rather than the drugs he was ingesting,” he said. “The reality is the medical examiner is going to come to those conclusions and let us know what that is.”