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DA clears National City police in Earl McNeil custody death

REGION — 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 today.

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.

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.

 

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