Dozens of protesters interrupted a city council meeting in National City Tuesday with shouts, signs, and calls for transparency in the investigation of a man who died in police custody in May.
It’s the third time in a week the group has disrupted a council meeting. Protesters are hoping to put some pressure on the city and police to release details about the death of Earl McNeil, a man they said went to police for help and ended up dead hours later in their custody.
As councilmembers discussed an unrelated agenda item, about six people in the group marched up to the dais with their hands up in the air chanting "I am Earl Mcneil," and "City Council, you have blood on your hands."
They then laid down on the ground below the dais and stayed there until police cuffed them and escorted them out just minutes later. By that time, the session had been adjourned and councilmembers had left the room.
The group then moved outside where they stood in the street face to face with deputies wearing masked helmets, holding their batons at their waists.
At around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, NBC 7 learned the city council had resumed its meeting behind closed doors.
The group wants the Medical Examiner’s office to release McNeil’s autopsy report, and wants the National City Police Department (NCPD) to identify the officers involved and release body camera footage from the incident.
After interrupting council meetings on consecutive days last week, the group vowed to continue disrupting the meetings until their questions were answered and said it would begin organizing protests with national Black Lives Matter groups.
McNeil, 40, went to the NCPD building looking for help on May 26, according to his family. He ended up in police custody with bruises, comatose and severe brain damage. McNeil's family said he was a San Diego resident who suffered from mental illness. He died in the hospital after being in a vegetative state for days with brain damage.
The NCPD released a statement following McNeil's death that said he called them from outside the police station and was paranoid and combative.
Police said they found a controlled substance on McNeil and attempted to arrest him, and added they restrained him using a wrap.
They said he stopped breathing while they were transporting him to the county jail and officers called paramedics.
National City police officials said they met with McNeil's family Monday night and gave them a timeline as for when the autopsy examiner's report will be released. Officials from the Medical Examiner’s office also provided the family with some of the report’s preliminary findings.
Neither the police department or county will be releasing anything to the public at this time.
"He had mental health issues and a few hours later, he was in a coma. And they're not giving us any answers," protestor Coyote Moon said. She's been at several of the recent demonstrations. “He wasn’t my son but I’m a mom and I want to know what happened. This is my town too.”