A California man begged for his life as a pack of Kern County sheriff's deputies beat him to death before seizing the cell phones of witnesses who recorded the incident on video.
The Bakersfield Californianreports that 33-year-old David Sal Silva, a father of four young children, died early Wednesday after deputies responded to a call about a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center (KMC) in Bakersfield.
According to the Kern County Sheriffs Office, Silva resisted deputies, a canine unit was deployed and when more deputies arrived, they beat him with batons. He then had difficulty breathing and was taken to KMC, where he died.
Officers from the California Highway Patrol were also reportedly involved in the incident. As many as nine total police officers took part in the beating.
Witnesses, some of whom recorded the fatal beating with their cell phone cameras, told a different story. Ruben Ceballos, 19, was sleeping in his home when he was awakened shortly after midnight by screams and commotion outside.
"When I got outside, I saw two officers beating a man with batons and they were hitting his head so every time they would swing, I could hear the blows to his head," he told the Californian. Ceballos said that although Silva was on the ground screaming for help, the officers kept beating him. After several minutes, Silva stopped screaming.
"His body was just lying on the street and before the ambulance arrived one of the officers performed CPR on him and another one used a flashlight on his eyes but I'm sure he was already dead," Ceballos told the Californian.
"He wasn't resisting arrest, he was begging for his life," a witness who gave only his first name, John, told Bakersfield Now.
"They (deputies) jumped out, reached for their bats, and beat that man until they killed him right in front of my face," witness Jason Land told Bakersfield Now. Land said the deputies behaved like "animals."
Land then called local media to report what he'd seen. He said he felt like he was being followed by deputies and became so paranoid that a friend drove him to the hospital. While there, he was arrested for being under the influence of the drug PCP. But Land insists he was not high and that he was arrested for reporting the deadly police beating.
"If I wouldn't have said nothing, I wouldn't have been in cuffs," Land told Bakersfield Now. "But since I said something, I'm in cuffs." Land said he is now "in hiding" out of fear of police retaliation.
Deputies seized other witnesses' cell phones following the fatal beating.
"The true evidence is in those phones witnesses have that apparently the sheriff's deputies already took," brother Christopher Silva told the Californian. "But I know the truth will come out and my brother's voice will be heard."
Criminal defense attorney John Tello, who is representing two of the witnesses who recorded the brutal beating, told the Californian that his clients are "shaken" by what they saw and how they were treated by police.
"When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies," Tello said, claiming that the witness was not allowed access to her cell phone and was prevented from leaving her home. Tello claims he was not permitted to speak privately with the woman with the phone and that he was informed that the recording of the deadly attack was evidence to the investigation.
"This was not a crime scene where evidence was going to be destroyed," Tello told the Californian. "These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty by preserving the evidence, not destroying it, as they (deputies) tried to make it seem."
Tello also claims that the witnesses' phones were seized before any warrants were served. He also claims deputies threatened one witness, telling him he could either surrender his phone the easy way or the hard way.
Silva leaves behind a girlfriend and four children, ages 2 to 10.
"How am I going to tell the kids... the father that they love is now dead?" Salvador Silva, David's father, asked Bakersfield Now.