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Federal Investigators Looking Into Death Of South Bay Man

Family of Earl McNeil and community members rally outside of National City Po...

Photo by Jade Hindmon

Above: Family of Earl McNeil and community members rally outside of National City Police Department Headquarters. June 13, 2018

Federal investigators are now looking into the case of a mentally ill man who died after being injured while in the custody of National City Police.

Earl McNeil's family said he'd gone to the police department on May 26 for help. They want to know how he wound up with severe head injuries that put him in a coma. McNeil died on June 11 at UC San Diego Medical Center after doctors requested he be taken off life support.

Family members and community activists went to the National City Police Department on Wednesday to demand answers. Family spokesperson Tasha Williamson said, "We’re trying to figure out how come he has bruising on his head. How he has scrapes on the side of his head. How he has bruising all around his head. How he has missing pieces of hair gone from his head. How did those injuries happen?"

On Wednesday morning, the National City Police Department released a prepared statement about the case. In it, police say officers met McNeil outside the police department after he called dispatchers.

"Mr. McNeil told the dispatcher that he had a warrant, was high, and wanted to kill Jesus. Mr. McNeil then hung up the phone," the statement read. It also said when officers contacted McNeil, "he was agitated, made irrational statements, and acted paranoid."

Video by Matt Bowler

Police said they arrested McNeil on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance. During the arrest, police said he became "combative," and officers put him in a device called a "Wrap," which restrains the legs, hands and feet.

Williamson questioned whether McNeil was simply restrained. "How come his wrists are cut, which appears to have been something that was too tight?" she asked. "His hands are completely swollen, his arms are swollen. That happens when there is an excessive force. That doesn't happen when there is a restraint."

The police statement also says a controlled substance was found on McNeil, and he was taken to the county jail. "During the transport, Mr. McNeil was intentionally hurting himself," the statement said.

Police said paramedics were called to the jail when McNeil showed signs of medical distress during intake. McNeil stopped breathing, and while the paramedics were able to resuscitate him, family members said he remained in a coma at UC San Diego Medical Center, where he died.

RELATED: Man To Have Life Support Pulled After Reportedly Suffering Brain Injury While In National City Police Custody

National City police said they are conducting an investigation and review of this incident along with the District Attorney’s office, FBI and U.S. Department of Justice. An autopsy is underway.

The police department statement quotes National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez as saying, “People want to know what happened to Mr. McNeil, and so do we ... I am hopeful the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s report will provide the answers to what happened to Mr. McNeil’s medical condition."

Earl McNeil died June 11 after suffering a severe brain injury while in custody of National City police. His family is demanding to see all video connected to the case.

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