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Witness fears video of Kern County beating may have been erased

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A witness to a beating by Kern County sheriff's deputies of a man who later died says she's worried that recorded segments from cellphone video of the incident may have been erased.

More analysis will determine whether footage might be missing from that cellphone, one of two Kern County authorities seized from witnesses who shot video of last week's beating.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood called in the FBI earlier this week after discovering that one of two phones that witnesses said contained video of the David Silva beating had no footage.

Youngblood said the second phone did have some video of the incident.

Both phones were returned to their owners Wednesday after the FBI examined them, said Melissa Quair, a witness who recounted watching the video on each device before deputies took them last week.

Quair, 31, said she and other witnesses are worried that recorded segments on one of the phones might have been erased.

"My biggest concern is that not everything that was videotaped is still there," she said.

The phone found to have no video belongs to her mother and the other belongs to her friend, Francisco Arrieta.

Quair said the phones were turned over to a lawyer for the witnesses, John Tello, and he would arrange for further analysis of them. Tello would not comment to the Los Angeles Times, but was quoted in the Bakersfield Californian on Wednesday as saying that the phones would undergo more examination and the remaining video could be made public by Friday.

The FBI did not reveal what its analysis determined. The federal agency is also investigating the beating.

Youngblood's spokesman said the Sheriff's Office had no new information and referred questions about the phones to Tello. Amid the controversy and national attention brought by the Silva case, the office announced that it had postponed an open house for local residents.

Several witnesses told The Times that deputies repeatedly struck Silva, 33, with batons until he went limp. They said the blows continued after Silva was in restraints and motionless on the ground. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later, on May 8.

Youngblood's office initially said Silva resisted arrest, requiring deputies to use force. The sheriff later said he was troubled by the incident, but would wait until the FBI and his own detectives completed their investigations to say more about the deputies' actions.

A forensics expert said Wednesday that analysts could recover deleted videos from most phones produced in recent years, unless special software was used to erase the footage or the devices were returned to their original factory settings.

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paul.pringle@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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