Claim alleges sheriff deputies beat Kern River Valley man

ONYX, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) A Kern River Valley man said he was badly beaten by several Kern County Sheriff's Office deputies, and he's filed a claim against the county.

David "Scotty" Byrket said he ended up with cracked ribs and other injuries. County officials say they've just received the claim from Byrket's attorney, and they're reviewing it.

Byrket said he asked the sheriff's department to investigate, but hasn't heard back. Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt told Eyewitness News on Friday there's an ongoing administrative investigation into the allegations.

It was Sunday morning, April 21, when Byrket said his son called deputies to the family home in Onyx, east of Lake Isabella.

"He thought we were arguing and he just misunderstood," he explained.

Byrket said the son had just gotten back from a wedding and "had a little too much to drink."

Byrket, 52, said he'd started on a walk down the street when two sheriff's cars pulled up near him, and a third stopped up the street. The man said officers talked to his son, and then talked to him.

"Immediately I could tell there was a problem," Byrket said.

He was told to lean over the patrol car, and officers emptied his pockets, Byrket described.

"They then told me I was under arrest. I said, 'For what?' They didn't tell me, they were trying to get me to resist them right then," he said.

Byrket said he was handcuffed and put into the back of a patrol car. He said the car headed west on Highway 178, and then started to swerve near the Old Isabella Recreation area. He said all three sheriff cars pulled over, and they stopped traffic on the highway.

Two deputies came to the car he was in.

"I remember one guy stomping on my chest, and I'm sitting in the back of that patrol vehicle," Byrket described. He has photos of injuries which he says came from boot hits to his chest and ribs, and also red marks he says came from being Tasered by officers.

Byrket said he passed out from the pain of the Tasers, and barely remembers part of the drive down the Kern River Canyon. He also said he was threatened by officers during the ride.

Next, Byrket said he was driven to the Kern County Jail in downtown Bakersfield and roughly carried into a cell, where he was stripped down. He says officers later returned to the cell.

"He was choking me, the other guy's laying on my legs, he's punching me on the side," Byrket said.

He's not sure how long he was held in the cell, but Byrket said he was taken to a courtroom on April 23. However, his name was never called. Byrket said he was never charged with anything, and released from jail that night.

On May 17, Byrket sent a letter to the sheriff's office with a formal complaint about the incident.

"My son David called 911 concerned and reported he thought I was a danger to myself and others," the letter reads. And, it also says the son was told Byrket was being take to the Mary K. Shell center, "which I have since learned is a Bakersfield facility for the treatment and diagnosis of the mentally ill," it also says.

"It should also be noted that I have had local deputies at my home over violations of a restraining order I have against a neighbor and because of that deputies believe me to be a nuisance," Byrket's letter said. "This prior relationship colored the way they began to treat me from the outset."

Eyewitness News asked Byrket if he had resisted the officers in any way.

"Absolutely not," he responded. "I cooperated in every way and I ended up in that car."

Asked if he even resisted verbally, Byrket said he didn't.

"All I tried to tell them is that they had no right," he said. "The argument went to this restraining order on this man next door, and I told the sheriffs that they didn't do their job."

Byrket has documents showing he requested the restraining order in July 2011.

Byrket said he has 12 broken ribs, and two were broken twice. His letter to the sheriff's department said when the deputies responded to the home on April 21, the son told officers that Byrket has "osteoporosis (brittle bone disease.)"

He got a letter back from the sheriff's department on June 4, saying his complaint was under review and he would be contacted "in the near future."

Byrket's attorney, Thomas E. Beck, told Eyewitness News on Thursday he's waiting for the sheriff's department to respond to his client's complaint. The claim lists a series of complaints against "multiple unidentified Kern County Sheriff's employees."

The claim for damages was filed this week with the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Chief Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations told Eyewitness News on Friday his office is looking into the claim, and they're gathering information from the sheriff's office.

"They're saying that I attacked the sheriff (deputies), and we're law-abiding people," Byrket said.

He said he's never been arrested or taken to jail before. Eyewitness News checked local court records, and found only two misdemeanor charges which both involved fishing license violations. One case in 2005 was dismissed, it also included a charge of resisting.

Byrket insists he cooperated in April.

"These people are brutal people, I want justice," Byrket said. "They think because I told them they didn't do their job, that's disrespect. And, you disrespect them, and this is what happens to you."