SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County District Attorney’s office announced Friday National City police officers were not criminally liable for the death of Earl McNeil and would not be charged.
McNeil’s family members and activists say the 40-year-old mentally ill man walked into a National City police station to get help around 5:30 a.m. on May 26. Instead of getting help, McNeil had a confrontation and multiple officers forcibly restrained him. McNeil died 16 days later at UCSD Medical Center’s trauma center in Hillcrest. Activists believe McNeil fell into a coma while in police custody.
District Attorney Summer Stephen held a two-hour press conference Friday to explain the results of her office’s investigation. She released nearly an hour of combined surveillance and body camera footage that was cut down from nearly two hours and 30 minutes recorded on the morning of May 26. McNeil’s family saw the footage for the first time Friday morning before it was shown to the public.
Before showing video, Stephen said that McNeil suffered from schizophrenia and drug addiction. She added that he also had a long history of contact with law enforcement, including violent incidents and a DUI involving methamphetamine intoxication.
The DA’s office said that McNeil called police four times May 26 to identify himself and say he was high. While outside a National City police station, McNeil can be heard in the video saying he wanted to kill people. In addition, officers say they heard McNeil say he was a pimp. Police found meth and a knife on him during the encounter.
McNeil’s behavior grew more erratic, prompting multiple officers to hold him down. They then used a body wrap when McNeil allegedly began to spit on them. This is when officers placed a spit sock over his head. While being held down and in a spit sock, McNeil as heard screaming “I’m alive!,” asking for help and saying officers were killing him. At one point, McNeil stated he could not breathe and was having a seizure.
With his face down, McNeil began to grind his teeth on the cement, police said. He began bleeding from his mouth and allegedly spat blood at an officer at one point.
Police opted to take McNeil to jail instead of the hospital, despite McNeil’s numerous calls for help. While in the police car, officers say McNeil struck his head against the plexiglass window multiple times.
The video released Friday shows that McNeil had some type of medical incident, causing police to contact paramedics. The surveillance footage shows McNeil being administered CPR. He appeared to be unresponsive.
Stefan said that her investigation showed that officers did not use excessive force and McNeil’s actions led to his death.