BAKERSFIELD — About a dozen people gathered in front of the Kern County Superior Court building Thursday to protest the death of David Sal Silva, the man who died less than hour after he was beaten by Kern County sheriff's deputies last week.
Standing near Kern County's replica Liberty Bell, some protesters wore masks and others held signs as their ranks slowly grew.
Chris Silva said he should be home with his family — his brother's funeral was later in the day. But he felt he needed to be at the vigil. His biggest fear, he said, is that justice would not be served.
"I was just living in my own selfish bubble," Chris Silva said. "But since my brother died I've been doing my research and this has got to stop."
Witnesses and attorneys allege deputies brutally beat Silva even after he was motionless on the ground. Authorities confiscated cellphone videos taken by witnesses, prompting accusations of a cover-up.
At Sheriff Donny Youngblood's request, the FBI also launched an investigation. The deputies involved are on administrative leave.
David Silva's death is the latest high-profile accusation of brutality against the Kern County Sheriff's Office in recent years. One resulted in convictions of three deputies and a $6-million civil judgment in the 2005 death of a jail inmate, attorneys said. A second ended with a $4.5-million court award for the family of a man who died in 2010 after being struck 33 times with batons and shocked with a Taser 29 times, attorneys said.
One woman at Thursday's protest said it was her son's father, James Moore, who was killed in the 2005 incident.
"James should have been the end of it. It brought a lot of things to light," Alicia Moore said. "He should have been the last.
"They beat him for nothing," she said. "Now they've done it to somebody else. But maybe this time there's hope. This time, there's video — hopefully."
Youngblood said he called in the FBI after discovering that one of the phones seized from witnesses had no footage of the beating. The phones were returned Wednesday, and one person told The Times she feared that some segments had been erased. More analysis will determine if footage might be missing from that phone.
By Thursday evening, Chris Silva had arrived at Greenlawn Cemetery in Bakersfield. In front of the chapel, he gently joked with visitors and welcomed them to the viewing.
But his father, Sal Silva, stood stock still, dark sunglasses shielding his eyes. Earlier in the day, he had written to David on a Web-based obituary guest book, saying, in part: "I will love you till the day I die and hope to see you again my son."
Marcum reported from Bakersfield and Mather from Los Angeles.