National City pays for man’s death in custody

The National City City Council approved paying a $300,000 settlement to Mauquieta McNeil and Taneka McNeil during a Sept. 21 council meeting for a case that asked how and why resident Earl McNeil died in police custody after turning himself in for a warrant.

Plaintiffs in the case stated that Earl McNeil called the National City Police Department dispatch line from outside the station on May 26, 2018 at 5:28 a.m. and said he wanted to turn himself in for a warrant.

Two police officers met McNeil in front of the station, where he was handcuffed. He died in custody two hours later.

Earl McNeil’s spouse Mauquieta McNeil along with his former spouse Taneka McNeil alleged the National City Police Department had wronged Earl McNeil through use of excessive force, for failure to provide medical care, for failure to supervise and train police officers, and claimed violation of the Bane Act, a California law that forbids people with interfering with a person’s constitutional rights through force or threat of violence.

At the time of his arrest, McNeil told police he was having homicidal and suicidal thoughts, and was high on drugs.

After finding 1.8 grams of methamphetamine and a knife on McNeil’s person, the NCPD officers restrained him using a WRAP device in an upright, seated position with his hands cuffed behind his back. Officers also placed a protective mesh sock over McNeil’s head to prevent him from spitting on them.

Police camera footage shows McNeil was erratic, panicked and repeatedly threatened to kill himself while restrained in the rear of a police car at a National City Police station holding facility for more than an hour.

At 7:04 a.m. McNeil was transported to the San Diego Central Jail, where a second protective mesh sock was added over his face, the WRAP restraint was released and a jail nurse performed an examination. The jail nurse referred McNeil for a full medical evaluation and he was transported by ambulance to an emergency department at 7:37 a.m.

Nearly two hours had passed between McNeil’s call to dispatch and the ambulance ride to the hospital.

McNeil had no pulse when he arrived at the emergency department. He was intubated but died 16 days later on June 11, 2018.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office proclaimed brain damage due to lack of oxygen caused his death.

Toxicology results taken by hospital workers at 8 a.m. on May 26, 2018 showed McNeil had .61 mg of methamphetamine and .04 mg of amphetamine in his system.

The Medical Examiner was unable to determine if cardiac arrest caused the respiratory arrest or vice versa, District Attorney Summer Stephen said in a Sept. 22, 2018 statement.

“There’s no evidence that officers intended to kill Mr. McNeil,” Stephen said.

The case was ruled a homicide.

On May 18, 2020, City Council convened in closed session and voted unanimously to approve the $300,000 settlement for plaintiffs Mauquieta McNeil and Taneka McNeil.

The plaintiffs executed a Settlement Agreement on Aug. 9, agreeing to resolve the litigation.

The City Council unanimously approved the resolution for the settlement and release agreement without discussion or public comments, marking an end to the case.