Cell videos show man screaming as he’s restrained by deputies
Warning: explicit language in video.
This post has been updated. See below for details.
Two new videos from a cellphone showing Kern County deputies restraining a screaming David Sal Silva and then them seemingly trying to revive him were released by an attorney for witnesses who recorded the confrontation that resulted in the father of four’s death.
ABC23 on Monday posted one video showing deputies positioned over a screaming Silva, seemingly controlling his movements, and a second one of them trying to revive him.
Silva died May 8 about an hour after the altercation, during which authorities say Kern County sheriff’s deputies wielded batons to control Silva. The footage made public Monday does not show any of the baton strikes. A grainy security surveillance video obtained earlier by The Times showed deputies swing batons toward a man on the ground.
The latest footage to become public is from a cellphone in the possession of attorney Daniel Rodriguez; according to the TV station, the phone belongs to one several witnesses to the beating. The cellphone has already been analyzed by the FBI, along with another phone.
Rodriguez did not returned calls from The Times seeking comment.
[Updated, 6:36 p.m.: Rodriguez told ABC23 that “the more incriminating video was one on the other cellphone.” He said that video was shot “while the batons were swinging.” Rodriguez added the second phone was returned to his client with no video. If a video was erased from that phone, he said, it could not be recovered because of the type of the device.]
The FBI has opened an investigation into Silva’s death at the request of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood after he discovered that one of two cellphones seized from witnesses did not have footage that apparently had been recorded.
Youngblood had asked the FBI to analyze the cellphones to determine what footage they contained and whether anything was deleted.
In interviews last week, witnesses insisted that the videos on both phones -- each several minutes long -- clearly captured deputies repeatedly striking Silva with batons.
“They must have gotten rid of one of the videos,” said Melissa Quair, 31, who told of seeing deputies pummel and kick Silva after confronting him across the street from Kern Medical Center in East Bakersfield.
Laura Vasquez, 26, a friend of the Quair family, said she also watched both videos -- one shot by Quair’s mother, the other by Quair’s friend -- and they vividly depicted the violence she witnessed.
Echoing the account of two other people interviewed, Vasquez said the first two deputies at the scene woke Silva, who was sleeping in front of a house, and ordered him not to move. When Silva sat up, looking confused or scared, a deputy hit him on the head, Vasquez said.
“He fell back and then the other officer got out and swung toward his head,” she said. “Mr. Silva was reaching for his head and the officers said ‘stop moving’ and ‘stop resisting.’ He wasn’t resisting.… He rolled on his back and they kept hitting.”
“I have seen the video,” Youngblood said last week. “I cannot speculate whether they acted appropriately or not just by looking at the video.”
The sheriff, however, acknowledged that there is a great deal of public concern about the incident and subsequent investigation.
“It is not just troubling to the public, it is not just troubling to news media, it is troubling to me,” he said. In an interview with The Times, he said the credibility of the department is at stake.
“Baton strikes were used, but what I don’t know is how many and where they were on the body and if they caused significant injury that caused death,” he said.
Youngblood said the baton is a less lethal weapon, and because of that its use doesn’t usually lead to deputies being placed on leave. But he said the head is not an appropriate place for a baton strike.
“Sometimes in the heat of battle, the baton doesn’t go where you want it to go.... If someone has 20 baton strikes to the head, OK, that is easy for us. But when there is a fight or scuffle and a baton strike goes where it should not ... then you have to evaluate,” he said.
Youngblood noted that no cause of death has been determined for Silva and that toxicology tests could take four months to be completed.
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