Sheriff: 'No strikes to the head or neck of Mr. Silva'

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Friday the controversial death of a man who died after a confrontation with deputies was an accident.

Youngblood strongly defended actions by deputies during a news conference Friday while releasing details of what he said happened on the night of May 7 when deputies confronted 33-year-old David Silva.

The cause of Silva's death was hypertension heart disease, according to the Kern County Coroner's Office, and the manner of death was ruled accidental.

The incident began when deputies were called for a report of a drunk man near Kern Medical Center. The sheriff's office said the man, identified as Silva, became combative and resisted deputies, who used "baton strikes" to gain control of the situation. Shortly after Silva was taken into custody, he developed breathing problems and died at KMC, police said.

Three deputies did strike Silva with their batons, but only in authorized areas of his body, Youngblood said. Deputies also used leg restraints to detain Silva, which prevented him from kicking deputies.

But while some witnesses had reported deputies struck Silva in the head, Youngblood said the coroner's report proves those accounts were not true.

"There were, according to the autopsy, according to the pathologist, there were zero -- no strikes to the head or neck of Mr. Silva," Youngblood said.

In addition to heart disease, the coroner determined Silva had additional conditions which contributed to his death such as acute intoxication, chronic alcoholism, severe abdominal obesity, chronic hypertension and acute pulmonary cardiovascular strain. The coroner's report also showed that Silva's blood alcohol level was .095 and he had meth and prescription drugs in his system at the time of death.

David Kohn, the attorney for Silva's family, is expected to hold a press conference Friday in response to the autopsy results.

The case is still under investigation.