Review board looking into whether in-custody death could’ve been avoided

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego's Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board was asked Tuesday night to construct a policy asking police agencies to discontinue the use of certain restraining devices.

This stems from the death of Earl McNeil who died in June of 2018.

McNeil reportedly went to National City Police headquarters asking that he be arrested. After making contact, officers determined McNeil was acting erratically due to drug use and arrested him for suspicion of being under the influence. They used a WRAP, a blanket-like device, around his legs to restrain him before taking him to jail downtown.

After arriving at the Central Detention facility, McNeil had two spit socks, or masks, placed over his face.

An investigation into McNeil's death found a Sheriff's deputy also pulled McNeil's T-shirt over his head making it hard for McNeil to breathe.

The Medical Examiner ruled McNeil's death a homicide saying he died due to a combination of a heart attack, methamphetamine use and "respiratory compromise."

"It doesn't matter that he was on drugs, it doesn't matter that he had mental illness, they brutalized him," said Tasha Williamson, spokesperson for the McNeil family.

Williamson and others were hoping the CLERB creates a mandate asking police agencies to discontinue the use of WRAP and spit mask devices.

As of late Tuesday, no decision by the board had been made public.

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