Witnesses of Kern County beating accuse authorities of erasing video

Two witnesses who saw Kern County sheriff’s deputies beat David Silva before he died accused authorities of erasing one of the cellphone videos that captured the incident.

Kern County Sheriff Danny Youngblood said Tuesday he has asked the FBI to conduct its own investigation after learning that one of two phones seized from witnesses had no footage on it.

The two witnesses told The Times that they watched the videos on each of the phones last week in the wake of Silva’s death.


Melissa Quair, 31, said she saw the videos on both phones shortly after the beating, which she witnessed. “They must have gotten rid of one of the videos,” she said.

Another witness, Laura Vasquez, 26, said she was “positive” the video had been erased because she watched both of them. One was shot by Quair’s mother, Maria Melendez, and the other by a family friend, Paco Arrieta, whose video was similar but a minute or two longer, Vasquez said.

Silva family lawyer David Cohn also said he believes one of the videos may have been erased. He said Monday he feared deputies might tamper with the videos, but did not believe they “would be that stupid.”

Kern County Sheriff’s Office personnel transported the phones Tuesday to the FBI’s Sacramento office for analysis, officials said.

“Our credibility is at stake here,” Youngblood told The Times on Tuesday.

“It is not just troubling to the public, it is not just troubling to news media, it is troubling to me,” Youngblood said of the Silva incident.

In an earlier statement, the Sheriff’s Office said Silva had resisted arrest, forcing deputies to use force. Silva was pronounced dead at 12:44 a.m. May 8, less than an hour after the confrontation began.


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