Protesters storm National City council meeting, demand police chief resign over man's death

Posted at 9:17 AM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 12:18:11-04

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) - A National City council meeting was disrupted and eventually shut down Tuesday night as protesters called for the city’s police chief to resign over a man’s death.

Family members, friends and community activists packed the meeting in city council chambers, with many of them holding signs with messages and photos of Earl McNeil, who died in early June after spending nearly two weeks on life support.

National City police said McNeil used an emergency phone at the station to call the dispatch center on the morning of May 26. According to police, the 40-year-old McNeil was incoherent and making threats.

Police said McNeil told officers he had a controlled substance on him. They put him in handcuffs, but according to police, McNeil was combative, so they put him in a restraint before taking him to jail on possession charges.

During the intake process, McNeil suffered some sort of medical emergency and stopped breathing. His family said none of that explains the bruises on his face. They say he suffered from mental illness and went to the police for help.

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

Family members and community leaders want NCPD Chief Manuel Rodriguez to release the body camera video and the names of the officers who were involved in the incident.

"Every person of color in the United States of America knows that the videos can be released because every time a video exonerates an officer the police department's release it immediately while it's under investigation," said community activist Mark Lane, who was later arrested for refusing police orders to move out of a fire exit.

One by one, residents took to the microphone to blast the National City Police Department.

"We need law enforcement. We need law enforcement to keep us safe. You are not keeping us safe. You are killing us," said one woman.

At one point, the crowd surrounded the chief, shouting in his face, "Who killed Earl McNeil?"

Many became angry that Rodriguez appeared to be smiling.

"Why you smirking now?! They need to fire you! You're done," screamed another woman.

The chief told reporters he is waiting on the results of the autopsy and toxicology reports.

RELATED: Family blames man's death on police

"This is not an officer-involved shooting. There isn't a particular moment in this instance that is going to show anything. Earl McNeil died as a result of a medical issue; we don't know what that is. That's why we're waiting for the medical examiner," Rodriguez said before getting shouted down by protesters.

When the chief tried to leave, the crowd tried to block him. There was some pushing and shoving before officers escorted Rodriguez out and cleared the room.

McNeil's family wants the FBI to take over the investigation.

Police arrested two women and one man in connection with the protests. One of the women arrested was taken away on a stretcher. While her injuries were unclear, some witnesses said she passed out or fell.

Demonstrators say they'll continue showing up at the council meetings until they get answers.