FBI investigating fatal beating by officers

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Amidst accusations of use of brutal force and tampering with evidence, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood has asked the FBI to investigate the officers from his department involved in the death of a Bakersfield man who apparently perished from wounds inflicted during an arrest attempt.

Youngblood and his staff did not respond to the News Review’s requests for comment, but his comments appear in regional, state and national media outlets covering the scandal. He told the Los Angeles Times that his “unprecedented” decision to call on the FBI was prompted because “our credibility is at stake.”

According to published reports, 33-year-old David Sal Silva left the home he shared with his girlfriend and four young daughters on the night of May 7. California High-way Patrol officers responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside of Kern Medical Center.

The two CHP officers were joined by eight KCSO officers and one sergeant. Officials report that Silva resisted arrest and they were compelled to use force.

Silva died about an hour later after he was admitted to KMC. The official cause of death has not been announced, but eyewitness accounts report that the sounds of the batons cracking against Silva’s skull, and his subsequent cries, were loud enough to wake nearby residents.

One woman called 9-1-1 to report the incident, saying “There is a man laying on the floor, and your police officers beat the [expletive] out of him and killed him. I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.”

From there officers reportedly detained witnesses for several hours, and would not release them until the witnesses relinquished the phones that held the videos in question. Although some reports indicate that the videos were deleted, that has not been confirmed.

Youngblood said that official confiscation of the phones was necessary in order to conduct a thorough investigation.

“We still have to secure the evidence, especially when that evidence can tell whether we did it right or wrong.”

But attorneys for Silva’s family say that the move made it appear that officers were trying to cover up their actions.

KCSO has been involved in at least two similar incidents in recent years. Three deputies were convicted with criminal charges after the death of an inmate in 2005. In 2010 another man was killed after being struck with a baton 33 times and zapped with a taser 29 times.

Both incidents resulted in lawsuits, and the families of both victims collected millions in damages.

Story First Published: 2013-05-22