Last week, dozens of protestors packed a National City, city council meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 24 demanding answers about the death of a man who died in custody of police.
The majority of the meeting was peaceful as residents addressed council members, demanding answers about the death of Earl McNeil.
“If you think you can cover up for a corrupt and murderous police department, you are gravely mistaken,” said one resident.
When the public comment period ended, demonstrators sprung forward and took control of the council chambers, shouting, “I am Earl McNeil!” and “You have blood on your hands!”
Several protesters were handcuffed and dragged out of the room. The exact number of arrests made was not known.
After the meeting was cleared out, the mayhem continued outside, as protesters shouted, “Say his name! Earl McNeil!” and confronted Sheriff’s deputies armed in riot gear who were called in to help with crowd control.
National City Police Department declined to comment on the meeting or the investigation into McNeil’s death.
I recently interviewed a relative of Earl, Tasha Williams, who gave us further insight on the journey of this case. Check out the interview below:
Evan Wheeler: Can you tell myself and the readers a little about the victim and the corrupt police officers?
Tasha Williamson: Earl McNeil was a 40-year old Black male whose mother died when he was 12-years old. His late Grandmother and Aunt Tammy McNeil raised him. He was very family oriented and loved to have family gatherings and always bought the kids toys and games. He loved to have cookouts with his family. He had a lot of trauma throughout his life due to not having both parents at a young age and as he got to adulthood it became more difficult navigating resources. Untreated trauma has long term impacts. His path led him astray often unable to manage his mental health and numbing his pain with drugs created a lot of problems surviving.
The National City Police Department (NCPD) has a long history of brutality and has had a few FBI probes but they continue to be one of the worse law enforcement departments in San Diego County. They have no active oversight review board, so they are the only one investigating themselves.
Evan: What happened in this specific case of injustice?
Tasha: On May 26, 2018, Earl walked up to the emergency phone outside the police station and picked it up. The NCPD says he was talking paranoid and making irrational statements. When they arrived they said he became combative and they placed him in a wrap device. At some point he was spitting at the officers and they placed a netting mask over his head and face. He was taken to Central Jail for booking where at some point he began to display signs of medical distress.
NCPD says the bruising all over his face, the swelling of his hands and bruising on wrist are all self-sustained injuries. He caused brain nerve injuries in the back of the squad car.
Evan: Has any audio, video or statements been released to the public or family?
Tasha: He released several press release statements all having different accounts of what happen to Earl. The Chief says per policy they can not release the officers video camera footage during an open investigation. He told the family his officers were back on patrol and did nothing wrong in the meeting held on June 18. On July 17, he had an interview with Channel 10 News prior to the city council meeting and stated during that interview the medical examiner report would exonerate his officers. The news reporters contacted the Medical Examiner’s office to find that Earl McNeil ME report had been sealed by NCPD and could only be unsealed by the very chief who claimed it would exonerate his officers.
Evan: Were any of the officers involved arrested, suspended or fired?
Tasha: No, their names were not made public and they were never taken off of patrol.
Evan: When the family and members of the community gather to protest what happens? How many times has this happened?
Tasha: On June 13, we protested in front of the police station and walked across to City Hall and were able to get a meeting with the city manager and mayor for June 18.
On June 19 at the city council meeting, I went over my 2-minute time limit and the mayor went to recess. I began to talk about corruption and cover ups of the death of Earl McNeil and the mayor asked to remove me. Two plain clothed officers approached me and I refused to leave as the council was at recess and people are free to speak during recess. The chief gestured for his officers and ten came in handcuffed me extremely tight and pulled me out of the meeting, whisking me down the stairs and a gentleman was running up the stairs. He sat at the steps and moved towards the wall for them to walk by and they began to kick and hit him in his back and back of his neck and head. I yelled for someone to film this and for them to stop hitting him and they pulled me after they threw him out of the doors. I was asked to remove my shoes as they searched me and the cuffs began to hurt. Subsequently, I was taken to the hospital and still remain injured from the arrest.
On July 3, every room was filled to capacity at the city council meeting. I was stopped several times and people were asked to clear the room. When the officers came to try to get me, White people stood in front of them and Black and Latino men and women stood behind them surrounding me. They told them they were not going to touch Tasha today. They allowed the people to escort me out and I used a bullhorn to keep my voice in the chambers and the demands of the McNeil Family.
On July 17, over 300 people showed up and shut the city council meeting down with chants of “Release the video”, “No justice no peace” and “Who killed Earl McNeil?” When they asked us to leave we just chanted and the city council left their seats and left the room. Two city council members stayed in the room with us and made statements of also wanting the videos released and to put Earl McNeil on the agenda. The crowd began to chant at the chief of police and surrounded him with signs as the media interviewed him. His officers moved in and it became chaotic as the chief tried to leave, the crowd chanted louder around him and his officers began to push and shove the people and then the people put their hands in the air and the officers stopped. Everyone was asked to leave and did so very slowly.
When they resumed, they initially only allowed White people to enter the doors first and than we chanted only White people can go back in. We began to chant, “No justice no peace, no racist police,” repeatedly. We asked when they would let other people in and than they began to allow five people in at a time. One of the speakers from the Hunger Strike Activist seeking justice for Earl McNeil and families separated and the other people were not allowed to enter in the chambers. The officers began to push them and a woman collapsed, they turned her over and handcuffed her, Aeiramique Blake. Mark Lane blocked Marcos and Nadia from being pushed and subsequently Mark was hit and he sat down and Shane Parmely sat with him. They both were arrested. An ambulance was subsequently called for Aeiramique Blake another Black woman injured by NCPD and had to be taken to the Chula Vista Scripps Ranch Hospital.
We were able to get the three people arrested from jail and will continue to demand justice for Earl McNeil. The next city council meeting is Tuesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. and we have asked the nation to caravan to National City and be one voice.
Evan: Have you, the community or family received any answers concerning the wrongful death of Earl McNeil from a superior officer or the commissioner?
Tasha: Yes, we were told by the chief that Earl’s injuries were self-sustained while he was in a wrap device in the back of the squad car. It has changed to NCPD investigators were at the autopsy and their was no trauma to Earl McNeil’s body. Now NCPD is saying he overdosed.
Evan: What was the explanation for their reason/claim to self-defense? They have no claim of self-defense.
Tasha: Almost 60-days has passed, no videos released, no names of the officers involved released and the Medical Examiner’s report is sealed. We have no clear answers of what happen to Earl McNeil from the National City Police. FBI Civil Rights Division has a complaint for Earl McNeil’s death made by me. USDOJ is going to review the case. San Diego District Attorney justifies every officer involved homicide in our county. So, we do not trust that this will change.
Tasha and the family demands:
- Release all video and audio involving Earl McNeil and any officers.
- Release the ME report.
- Release the names of the officers involved.
- We are asking the FBI to take over the case because NCPD is not capable of investigating themselves.
Check out other news releases and recaps of this case: