Brother watches and reacts to video of alleged beating by deputies
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The family of a man who died in sheriff's custody is speaking out about surveillance video of the incident. David Silva, 33, died after a confrontation with several officers across from Kern Medical Center. A neighbor in the area gave the Silva family video that shows the incident from a distance.
"Constant bashing, this is constant bashing," Chris Silva describes. "You can count, you know -- I can't keep track. And it hurts my heart looking at this." The video is grainy and dark, he admits, but the Silva family hopes the images help produce some answers.
The Kern County Sheriff's Department says they are investigating. They report a deputy and K9 were sent to an area across from KMC at about midnight Tuesday on reports of a possibly intoxicated man. The family has heard from a woman who says she saw David Silva lying down at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive.
"She was just looking at him, saying what's wrong," Silva told Eyewitness News on Monday. "She could hear him snoring." That's why Silva thinks his brother had passed out when the first officer got there. He speculates his brother was startled by the deputy.
"Maybe he was waking up, he awakened, and maybe he resisted a little bit," Silva said. "He's a big guy waking up."
Officers say Silva resisted the first officer, who then deployed his dog and asked for back-up. That raises another question for the family. "Instead of calling police on a man that's on the ground, why wasn't an ambulance called?" Chris Silva asks. "Why wasn't there assistance given?"
Sheriff officials say eventually six more deputies responded as backup, and two California Highway Patrol officers. On Monday, CHP spokesman Robert Rodriguez said their car that arrived on the scene did get video of the incident from the dashboard camera.
Rodriguez could not say what was seen in that video. The CHP officer said the video has been turned over to the sheriff's department, and his department can not release it. Rodriguez said that's standard procedure. He said it's also standard procedure not to release the names of the two CHP officers because the investigation is on-going.
The officer said the CHP is also doing an administrative investigation of the incident, and that's standard because their officers were present when there was an in-custody death.
As Eyewitness News first reported, a family leaving KMC happened to see the incident with Silva and the officers. The family called 911, and they got video on cell phones. A few hours later, sheriff officers were at their home demanding the phones and video.
One man voluntarily gave his phone to officers because he had to go to work. However, a woman refused to turn over her phone until officers had a search warrant. That arrived at about noon, and officers took the phone. That family has retained an attorney who's questioning the seizure of the video, and trying to get the phones returned.
As of Monday, the family told Eyewitness News they were still waiting to hear what will happen with their phones. A spokesman with the attorney for the Silva family said the same. They are also asking that the video be made public.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Friday the video will be released when his department is done with their report.
"I'm trying to be as patient as I can," Chris Silva said. "And I'm waiting for the investigation to roll on."
It's not clear to the family why David Silva was at KMC, but they believe he went there to get some help. Chris Silva said his brother was at their mother's house that evening at about 5:00, and told her he was dealing with some "personal issues." Silva says his brother gave the mother a hug, and left.
The sheriff's department has reported officers deployed the K9 and used batons to restrain David Silva. An ambulance was called to treat him for injuries, and while being treated at the scene Silva had trouble breathing. He was taken by ambulance across the street to the KMC emergency room, and was pronounced dead there.
The neighbor with the surveillance video wanted to be sure the Silva family could see what the camera system had captured of the incident, Eyewitness News was told. Chris Silva said he's grateful for that. "That's an angel, that's a gift," he said.
The video is pretty dark, blurred and from a distance. But, Silva thinks it has real value.
"Are we rushing to conclusions or judgment?" Silva said. "No, we're just trying to get the truth told." He says the family has questions about what the officers did, and why they are still on duty. He wants the community to see anything that's available on the incident.
"I just want people to ask why? And the question is, why did my brother have to die?" Silva said. "I'll do anything to get that story out, and I'll do anything to make sure this wouldn't happen again to anybody."