Earl McNeil Family Wants DA's Office to Recuse Itself From Investigation

Earl McNeil died 16 days after being taken into National City police custody

The family of Earl McNeil is asking the District Attorney’s Office to recuse itself from the investigation into his death.

Family spokesperson Mark Lane told NBC 7 the family came away from a meeting with Sheriff Bill Gore feeling like they were told the truth. “The Sheriff was able to fill in a lot of the timeline for us,” Lane said.

McNeil, 40, went to the National City Police Department (NCPD) building for help last May, according to his family. He was taken into custody by NCPD and was taken to UCSD Medical Center comatose with bruises and severe brain damage. He died in a vegetative state in the hospital 16 days after being taken into custody.

The National City Police Department released a statement, saying McNeil called them from outside the police station on May 26. When they came out, he was paranoid and combative. Police said they found a controlled substance on McNeil and attempted to arrest him.

Police added they restrained McNeil using a wrap, and as they were driving him to the county jail, he stopped breathing. Officers said they called paramedics.

Since his death, his family and others have been asking for answers about exactly what happened.

“The family’s level of frustration is incredible,” Lane said. “They’re still traumatized. They’re still having a hard time dealing with it.”

He said the Sheriff’s Department was never able to take custody of McNeil because of his condition.

Now the investigation is in the hands of the District Attorney, who the family says is too closely tied to National City Police and McNeil himself. Court documents revealed the DA used him as a confidential informant in a murder trial.

“They should just come out and say, ‘Hey look, we can’t take this case, we cannot take this case because of conflict of interest.’ That’s what we’re looking for," Lane added. 

A District Attorney spokesperson confirmed National City police have forwarded the investigation to the DA, and the DA has reached out to the state’s attorney general to see if the office should recuse itself.

In a statement, the DA's office told NBC 7:

"The National City Police Department has concluded its investigation into the in-custody death of Mr. Earl McNeil and has forwarded it to the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney has prioritized the review of this case and will conduct this review in a thorough and objective manner based on all of the evidence in the case. If additional follow-up investigation is needed, the DA’s office will do so. The purpose of the DA’s review is to provide an independent analysis to determine if any use of force was legally justified or not, for the purposes of criminal liability. In the meantime, the District Attorney’s Office has reached out to the California Attorney General’s Office to request their opinion on whether there is a legal basis for recusal. The DA is also including the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Civil Rights Division and is sharing all information with that independent agency, which has concurrent jurisdiction."

“That’s a good response. It’s a step in the right direction,” Lane said. “We’re not going to go away.”

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