Protesters Shut Down National City Council Meeting Over Earl McNeil Death, Arrests Made
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Photo by Matthew Bowler
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The National City Police Department said six people were arrested and charged with the misdemeanor crime of disruption of public assembly or meeting, after a “die-in” protest during Tuesday night's city council meeting.
National City Police called five agencies to assist the department with crowd control of about 30-50 unarmed people. Those agencies were the Chula Vista, El Cajon, Coronado and San Diego Police departments, as well as the San Diego County Sheriff's department. The officers were all heavily armed and wearing riot gear while a helicopter hovered above.
The National City Police Department continues to investigate the death of Earl McNeil as an in-custody death. The Medical Examiner's report is expected to be completed by mid-August.
UPDATE: 12:41 p.m., July 25, 2018:
Law enforcement responded in riot gear at a city council meeting Tuesday night in National City.
Activists stopped the public comment portion of the meeting with a “die-in protest,” demanding answers in the death of Earl McNeil, a man who died after being arrested in May.
One by one, six people lied down on the floor with red palms in the air, shouting “blood is on your hands!”
The die-in demonstration as protesters called it, brought the packed city council meeting to a halt as National City police moved in to arrest all six people.
After the chamber was cleared, other activists moved outside where they were met by heavily armed officers in riot gear from at least three different agencies including the National City Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Chula Vista Police Department. Mohamed Elnakib said he felt the show of force was excessive.
“This is a problem that they are here in military tactical gear for literally people who are out here without weapons. We are peacefully protesting and all we want are answers,” Elnakib said.
Details on the charges against those arrested haven’t yet been released.
UPDATE: 9:00 p.m., July 24, 2018:
Several protesters were arrested inside the meeting. Police zip-tied their hands and some were carried out. Police and protesters are still outside City Hall. Some streets near the building are currently blocked off. KPBS has reached out to the National City Police Department and is awaiting word on the number of arrests.
UPDATE: 8:15 p.m., July 24, 2018:
Protesters shut down the city council meeting in National City Tuesday night. Several arrests have been made. KPBS is outside City Hall and will have updates as they become available.
The family of Earl McNeil got some details Monday about how the 40-year-old died after being arrested in May. But they are still seeking more answers, and community members plan to speak out at Tuesday night's city council meeting in National City, starting at 6 p.m.
National City Police officials, legal counsel and the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office met with the McNeil family and their attorney Monday, to give an update on the ongoing investigation.
During that meeting, family members got a look at preliminary findings from the autopsy, which has been unsealed but is not yet available to the public. That information will not be disclosed until the report has been completed in mid-August.
The family's attorney, Doug Applegate, said they also heard parts of the emergency phone call McNeil made to dispatch the morning of May 26, while standing in front of the National City Police Station.
National City Police Department media release regarding death of Earl McNeil
National City Police Department media release regarding the department’s meeting with the family of Earl McNeil.
Applegate said McNeil called for help four times in a span of five minutes before officers met him. Police said McNeil told the dispatcher he had a warrant, was high and wanted to kill Jesus and then hung up the phone.
Police said they met with McNeil outside the station and arrested him for suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance. They said McNeil became combative and they restrained him in a WRAP device before transporting him to the county jail. Police said during the transport, McNeil intentionally hurt himself and showed signs of medical distress at the jail. Paramedics were called and he stopped breathing while they attended to him. McNeil was then taken to UC San Diego Medical Center where he was on life support until June 11.
On Tuesday, the National City Police Department put out a news release that said Monday's meeting with the family included an outline of the chain of events on May 26, "from the first police contact with Mr. McNeil, to transport to County Jail to his removal from the patrol car to being placed in an ambulance at the County Jail's intake area."
The release said, "Mr. McNeil was responsive (talking, yelling, and alert) during the entire time he was in the custody of the National City Police Department." It went on to say McNeil stopped breathing while in the back of the ambulance as it was parked in the county jail area.
Family members question bruises and other injuries they said they saw on McNeil's head and face. Applegate said the family is still asking for all body camera, surveillance and dashcam video related to McNeil's death. He said the family was told National City Police are following the protocol of San Diego County regarding an in-custody death.
The Medical Examiner's report is expected to be finished mid-August. At that point, National City Police can complete their investigation as they need the findings from the Medical Examiner's Office.
National City Police said per protocol, the District Attorney, FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are also investigating McNeil's death.
Protesters interrupted the packed city council meeting Tuesday night, demanding answers in the case of Earl McNeil, a man who died after being arrested in late May.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Mohamed Elnakib's name. The story has been updated to correct that.
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