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Relatives Of Earl McNeil Continue Push For Answers

Earl McNeil, who died after an encounter with the National City Police, is sh...

Credit: Tammy Davis

Above: Earl McNeil, who died after an encounter with the National City Police, is shown in an undated photo.

Relatives of Earl McNeil Continue Push For Answers


Tammy Davis, aunt of Earl McNeil


The death of Earl McNeil still presents unanswered questions for his family and supporters. McNeil died after an encounter with the National City Police Department earlier this year. Community protests called for explanations as McNeil’s family waited months to find out how he died.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner ruled McNeil’s death a homicide caused by cardio-respiratory arrest from meth toxicity, agitation and respiratory compromise.

The ambulance report revealed officers not only restrained McNeil in a WRAP device but also placed two so-called spit hoods over his head in addition to a shirt that was pulled over his face.

The way these restraint measures were used runs counter to the National City Police Department’s instruction manual.

Video showed McNeil sat restrained and unattended in the back of a police car for more than an hour.

Despite the ruling by the medical examiner, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan decided not to file charges in his death.

“Based upon the circumstances surrounding McNeil’s death the National City Police Department officers and the San Diego County Sheriff's Deputies involved in his detention are not criminally liable,” Stephan said during a September 21 news conference.

To mark what would have been McNeil’s 41st birthday, KPBS’ Jade Hindmon spoke with Tammy Davis, Earl McNeil’s aunt and closest relative. Davis described who McNeil was, his struggle with bipolar disorder and what their family wants to see happen next.

Q: What was your reaction to the DA's decision to not file charges?

A: It was horrible because plainly you can see on the videos that he suffered. I was really upset about that. I mean I don't know what was going through (Summer Stephan's) mind when she saw the videos but in my mind you can plainly see that he suffered and no one gave him help. So yeah I was devastated about the verdict that she gave.

Q: When you say that he suffered for those who haven't seen the video or don't know what happened, can you explain what you saw?

A: I didn't watch all the videos but the video that I did see was horrible. He was in the back of the SUV. Just no seat belt bouncing around. Asking for help. Asking the officers to give him help he couldn't breathe. His chest was in the WRAP and was too tight. It was just horrible.

Q: What can you tell us about who Earl was?

A: He was a fun guy. He was a family guy. He always was with the kids. He was the “Let's do this family thing”. He was on the barbecue pit and he always came to me for everything. “Auntie can we do this? Auntie what should I do about this?” So, he was a fun guy. He was compassionate, emotional. He cried to me a lot because things didn't go right for him you know. But he was a nice guy and I miss him.

Q: Obviously he has some great characteristics but he had a rough childhood right?

A: After his mom passed away that's when it got rough for him. You know she was killed and the way she died it really took a toll. It just took him off the edge. So, she passed away in a drive-by shooting Halloween night. They never found her killer.

Q: How old was he when that happened?

A: Twelve. He kept saying I don't have a mom or a dad so that's why he clung to me because I only have one child. He used to say, 'you just like my mom.' So, I guess that's why he came to me for everything. I tried to get him help.

Q: What do you think Earl was trying to do on the morning he showed up in front of National City Police Department and picked up that phone?

A: Get help. When my nephew felt like you know something is going wrong with him he you know he needs to go to the hospital. That wasn't the first time he went to the police and asked for help. He would call 911. San Diego will come pick him up and they would take him to the hospital. That day I don't know. It was horrible but he went for help because he felt like he was in distress and he went to the National City Police station for help as he would often do.

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