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No criminal charges to be filed in National City Police custody death of Earl McNeil

Police body camera video was released
Posted: 1:53 PM, Sep 21, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-22 06:16:34Z
No criminal charges in police custody death

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - No criminal charges will be filed in the death of Earl McNeil, who died after he was in the custody of National City Police, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said Friday.

The McNeil family and attorney Doug Applegate held a news conference calling for a federal investigation into the matter half an hour before Stephan released surveillance and body camera video and a timeline of the arrest.

The video showed Earl McNeil, 40, outside the National City Police station and his initial interaction with officers at 5:32 a.m. on May 26. 

Warning: Graphic Content

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The timeline tracked McNeil’s two hours and 25 minutes in custody as he was placed in a police SUV, taken to County Jail, evaluated by medical professionals, and taken to the hospital.

McNeil, who had mental illness, went to the National City Police station seeking help, his family said.

National City Police said when McNeil went to the station he was making paranoid, threatening and irrational statements. Police say he was agitated and told them he was in possession of a controlled substance. 

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"McNeil was transported to County Jail for processing," the National City police statement said. "During the intake process with county jail staff, McNeil exhibited signs of medical distress and NCPD officers called for paramedics."

Family members said they were told hours later that McNeil had suffered a heart attack. When relatives arrived at the hospital, they saw McNeil had bruises on his forehead, had several teeth missing and scars on his face, family members said.

McNeil, according to his family, suffered brain and nerve damage that led to his placement in a coma. He was pronounced dead June 11.

The autopsy report listed the official cause of death as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, due to resuscitated cardiorespiratory arrest. In other words, he died from brain damage sustained from a lack of oxygen because of a heart attack.

The medical examiner found the heart attack may have been caused by several factors. McNeil had high levels of methamphetamine in his system. The report stated that "alone could result in a fatal cardiac arrhythmia and arrest." However, the ME also wrote that his agitated behavior and struggle while in the WRAP could also create conditions for a heart attack. The objects placed over his mouth may have also had an effect on his ability to breathe. 

The ME determined, because the actions taken by police to restrain McNeil were "purposeful and potentially dangerous, and contributed to his death," the manner of death was a homicide.

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The death led to protests at National City Council meetings as some attendees called for the resignation of National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez.

National City Police met in July with McNeil’s family to discuss the investigation.

McNeil’s family called Friday for the FBI Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney and California Attorney General to review the police investigation into McNeil’s death.