Statement on Earl McNeil Investigation

SAN DIEGO, CA - The Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) has released a statement regarding the Earl McNeil case in National City. CPAT is a regional group of organizations focused on improving policing policy and practices in the region to provide more accountability and transparency of police interactions with the community.

The Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency members are the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Mid-City CAN, the Center on Policy Initiatives, Alliance San Diego, Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, CAST, San Diego Organizing Project, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, CAIR San Diego, Women Occupy of San Diego, Think Dignity and Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).

Please see below for statement:

Earl McNeil went to the National City Police Department (NCPD) on May 26 seeking help of some kind, was arrested, and only hours later, went into a non-responsive state while in NCPD custody. In the fifty-nine days that have elapsed, Mr. McNeil’s family and the community have yet to receive answers regarding his demise and have been denied an opportunity to view relevant video to support NCPD claims that he was not mistreated.

The details gleaned from various media accounts indicate NCPD officers arrested and handcuffed Mr. McNeil on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, causing McNeil to become agitated. The Chief of NCPD confirmed that officers placed McNeil in a WRAP device and a “spit sock.” The WRAP is a nylon restraining device that wraps around a person’s legs and keeps people in a sitting position with a chest harness. NCPD then transported McNeil to the San Diego County Downtown Jail. McNeil was denied booking during the jail intake process and went into medical distress shortly after being rejected for booking. The paramedics were called and McNeil was transported to UCSD Medical Center. McNeil’s family decided to end life support for McNeil after nearly two weeks at the hospital.  

Many of the details regarding McNeil’s interaction with NCPD and subsequent medical distress, resulting in his death, are unknown. The family and community deserves to know these details and if Mr. McNeil was treated improperly at any stage of the process.  It does appear that Mr. McNeil, who lived with bipolar disorder, was in a state that should have signaled to officers that what he needed was medical and/or mental health intervention and not detention in jail.  The Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) is paying close attention and continue to call for accountability and transparency from all law enforcement agencies involved in this case.

We encourage NCPD, the District Attorney, and the Sheriff’s department to engage in real transparency by releasing all video and body cam footage regarding this incident. We understand the Sheriff’s department may have video footage relevant to the question of Mr. McNeil’s condition when he was denied booking at the downtown jail. CPAT also calls on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to make the release of the medical examiner’s report a priority and the results of the autopsy should be released immediately. This information will help answer critical questions surrounding the circumstances of Earl McNeil’s injuries.

The questions that deserve answers include (but are not limited to):

  • Were any mental health professionals, including Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) personnel, present or even called to assist?
  • What type of, if any, de-escalation tactics were attempted before handcuffing McNeil or placing him in a WRAP device?
  • Was there any force used on Mr. McNeil?
  • Why did the staff at the jail refuse to book Mr. McNeil?
  • Did the officers involved have any type of training on interacting with an individual in crisis due to mental health and/or substance abuse issues?
  • What agencies are currently conducting an investigation?
  • Why is the Medical Examiner’s report delayed so long?

Transparency is critical in these types of incidents so that the community can be confident the agencies are responding in an appropriate manner, and to allow for healing and learning to occur to prevent incidents like this in the future.