San Diego DA clears police in custody death of Earl McNeil

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – National City police and sheriff’s deputies will not face criminal charges in connection with the death of a drug-impaired mentally ill man following his combative arrest in the South Bay city last spring, District Attorney Summer Stephan announced Friday.

Earl McNeil, 40, was high on methamphetamine and had been fighting with officers when he stopped breathing and suffered heart failure, Stephan told reporters. McNeil died in a hospital 16 days later due to brain damage from lack of oxygen, she said.

According to the medical examiner’s office, a high level of methamphetamine in McNeil’s system could have been enough to cause his death. McNeil was agitated for two hours starting when he first came into contact with National City police officers in front of their headquarters, and that could have led to heart and respiratory failure, Stephan said.

Stephan played a 55-minute compilation video of the events following McNeil’s arrest, including paramedics trying to revive him as they prepared to take him in for medical and psychological evaluation.

Before playing the video for reporters, Stephan informed McNeil’s family that officers and deputies would not be facing criminal charges in connection with his death. She said they were respectful of her decision, calling them “extremely wonderful people.”

McNeil’s death prompted a series of protests and arrests at city council meetings in National City in recent months.

The events that led to the one-time gang member’s death began shortly before 5:30 a.m. May 26, when McNeil called the National City Police Department’s emergency-communications center from a telephone near the entrance to NCPD headquarters.

“During his conversation with the dispatcher, McNeil requested to speak with an officer and made paranoid, threatening and irrational statements,” according to a statement from the agency. “When officers arrived to speak with McNeil, he was very agitated (and) paranoid and said he was in possession of a controlled substance.”

In order to “de-escalate the situation,” officers handcuffed McNeil, the memo states. At that point, he allegedly began resisting and spitting at the personnel, prompting them to put him in maximum restraints and take him to San Diego Central Jail.

“During the intake process with county jail staff, McNeil exhibited signs of medical distress, and NCPD officers called for paramedics,” according to police. “Paramedics responded and treated McNeil at the jail. McNeil was transported by paramedics to UCSD Medical Center for additional treatment.”

McNeil died in the hospital on June 11.

Stephan said McNeil was an informant for the District Attorney’s Office in the 2003 murders of two women and the wounding of a 7-year-old boy in the Dr. J’s liquor store shooting. McNeil — who had a substantial criminal record — was a witness in the case and the only benefit he received was relocation money for his family to move out of San Diego due to safety concerns, the county’s top prosecutor said.

Warning: The video contains content and strong language that viewers may find disturbing.

Summer Stephan news conference on case regarding death of Earl McNeil

San Diego County District Attorney's Office holds news conference to release its decision regarding criminalliability in connection with the death of Earl McNeil.More: https://bit.ly/2puq0H8

Posted by KUSI News on Friday, September 21, 2018

Categories: Local San Diego News