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Protesters Call For Resignation Of National City Police Chief In Connection To Death Of Earl McNeil

Man shouts "Who killed Earl McNeil?!" at National City Police Chief during city council meeting on July 17, 2018.
Kris Arciaga
Man shouts "Who killed Earl McNeil?!" at National City Police Chief during city council meeting on July 17, 2018.
Protestors Call For Resignation Of National City Police Chief In Connection To Death Of Earl McNeil
Protestors Call For Resignation Of National City Police Chief In Connection To Death Of Earl McNeil GUEST: Jade Hindmon, reporter, KPBS News

Our top story on Midday edition three protesters were arrested last night at a tense and raucous city council meeting in National City. The protesters are demanding the resignation of National City police chief Manuel Rodriguez and the release of body cam footage of the encounter between officers and a National City man named Earl McNeil. McNeill died last month after he stopped breathing while in police custody. Police ordered the protesters to leave the city council meeting when a group refused to stop shouting. This is the third time protesters have disrupted a National City City Council meeting since McNeil's death. Joining me is Kate PBS reporter Jade Heidemann and J8. Welcome. I'm Marina Jabe you were at the meeting in National City last night. Can you describe what happened. Well the room was packed with people from the community who wanted answers about what happened to Earl McNeil. They wanted the video to be released. They want to know what the medical examiner is saying and so far they've not received any answers. So during public comment they walked up to express their concerns and at which point things got a little out of hand. And so the chamber cleared the council left the room and people still wanted to know what happened and so we were able to kind of corner the chief to get a few answers on that. When you say it got out of hand it wasn't just verbal were people just making verbal inquiries. I mean nobody was being threatened right now. No one was being threatened. People were just making verbal inquiries. You know they've they've got a specific amount of time to talk when they go to the podium to speak during public comment. One woman went past that and that's when some council members felt like things were out of hand. But again these were people who are who are wanting answers about this case. Where were the three protesters arrested. So they were inside of the lobby at this point. They'd cleared the chambers and they were outside staging a sit in. And so from what we understand from the Union Tribune is that they were just arrested during that sit ins. There were two women and one man that was arrested. We reached out to the National City Police Department to get information on why they made those arrests. They have not responded. The protesters are demanding the release of police body cam footage of their encounter with Earl McNeil. Can you remind us about that incident. Sure Wally on May 26 around 5 o'clock in the morning McNeil showed up at the police department to use the phone in front of that station. Police say he called dispatchers told them he was high wanted to kill Jesus had a warrant and then hung up. Officers confronted him said he was agitated combative and paranoid so they put him in a restraining device called the wrap. It restrains the legs and arms. Officers say they found drugs on them after that being put in that wrapped device he began to hurt himself is what they said. Again the device restrains the legs and arms at some point though during transport and intake they said he showed signs of medical distress and stopped breathing when paramedics arrived. They resuscitated him and he was taken to UCSD Medical Center where he remained on life support until June 11th when doctors recommend he be taken off life support and he died. Now the family says he showed up to that police station looking for help. He had bipolar disorder and they want an explanation for injuries they saw on his body that they don't feel can be explained through what the police have said happened. You also have a lot of people in the community who are wondering when was Purt called When was the team called if they were called in who feel that in this case mental illness has been criminalized. So they have a lot of questions about this. We have a clip from a family spokeswoman Tasha Williamson. I think that that she is a coward. Joan may change with that family and he smiled and he smiled while he was talking to them. They were crying. They were upset visibly. He's smart he's smart. The entire time just like he was here. He told them his officers did nothing wrong. We said if that's the case release the tape of course National City police chief Manuel Rodriguez is the focus of much of the protesters complaints and he gave a bit of an impromptu press conference at the meeting the videos of the current investigation and it's very difficult to hear. Chief Frederica as you were there Jane. What did he have to say. Exactly so. You know he's saying that they're not going to release the video. Right now he's saying that Earl McNeil died of a medical injury. He's already made his mind up about that. Toxicology reports are still not out. The medical examiner report is still not out. So. So his words were not received very well by the crowd at all. He went on to say that Earl died of a medical issue. So people want to know if that medical issue was caused by law enforce they're hoping the video can shed some light on that. Another interesting thing to throw into this is that the police department keeps mentioning this rap device that he was put into. If we look up a bit about the rap device you'll find that there are a few other cases where people have died after being put in that wrapped device. So it's a broader question too. If this device is safe to use it was approved by the National City Council. But there are a lot of questions here some of which could be potentially answered through police video. Now what can you tell us about the protesters. Is this an organized group. And do they say they'll continue. They say they will absolutely continue until they get some answers. It is an organized group primarily grassroots and organized via social media. I've been speaking with PBS reporter Jane Heineman. Jane thank you. Thank you. National City says the city council meeting suspended last night will be reconvened at 2:00 this afternoon with a public comment period.

Police ordered protesters to leave a National City council meeting Tuesday night after the group continued to disrupt the meeting.

The protesters are demanding the resignation of National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez, the release of police body-cam footage of the encounter between police officers and Earl McNeil, the release of the medical examiner's report and a federal investigation into McNeil's death.

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McNeil, who was African-American, died after he stopped breathing while in the custody of National City Police Department on May 26. Police said he was resuscitated.

Tasha Williamson, the spokeswoman for the McNeil family, said they met with Rodriguez on June 18.

"They were crying, they were upset visibly, he smirked and he smiled the entire time, just like he was here. He told them his officers did nothing wrong. We said 'if that's the case release the tapes,'" Williamson said.

Rodriguez said the department doesn't release body-cam footage in ongoing investigations.

"This is not an officer-involved shooting. There isn’t a particular moment in this incident that is going to show anything. Earl McNeil died as a result of a medical issue, I don’t know what that is, that’s why we are waiting on the medical examiner," he said during a break in the meeting.

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Three protesters were arrested during a sit-in following the council meeting, according to reporting from The San Diego Union-Tribune.

This is the third time protesters have disrupted a council meeting since McNeil’s death on June 11.

A statement from the National City Police Department said they arrested McNeil May 26 on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and that during the arrest "McNeil became combative" and officers restrained him.

While in custody McNeil stopped breathing. Paramedics were able to resuscitate him and he was taken to the hospital. He remained in a coma at the hospital until he was taken off life support.

Protestors Call For Resignation Of National City Police Chief In Connection To Death Of Earl McNeil
Protesters Call For Resignation Of National City Police Chief In Connection To Death Of Earl McNeil
The protesters are demanding the resignation of National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez, the release of police body-cam footage of the encounter between police officers and Earl McNeil, the release of the medical examiner's report and a federal investigation into McNeil's death.

Corrected: December 5, 2022 at 12:16 PM PST
UPDATE: This story was changed on July 19 to clarify details of Earl McNeil's death.
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