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Calif. Man Begged for His Life as 9 Police Officers Beat Him to Death

A photograph from the family of David Silva showing him and his three daughters Makayla, 10, Katelyn, 4, and Chelsey, 8. (Source: The Bakersfield Californian)

A photograph from the family of David Silva showing him and his three daughters Makayla, 10, Katelyn, 4, and Chelsey, 8. (Source: The Bakersfield Californian)

David Sal Silva, a 33-year-old father of four small children between the ages of 4 and 10, was beaten to death by as many as nine police officers in Bakersfield, California, early Wednesday morning. Police say Silva was intoxicated and fighting officers. But this was contradicted by several eyewitnesses.

Grainy security camera footage obtained by 23ABC from a person who was “afraid of a cover-up by deputies and wanted ‘the truth to come out'”, appears to corroborate witness accounts, showing several men striking a man laying on the ground with objects over a dozen times.

The release of a 911 call from a woman who witnessed the beating (listen here) doesn’t bode well for the officers either. The woman can be heard telling the dispatcher:

“There’s a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the shit out of him and killed him. I have it all on video camera.I am sitting here on the corner of Flower and Palm right now and you have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Sheriffs. The guy was laying on the floor and eight Sheriff’s ran up and started beating him up with sticks.  The man is dead laying right here, right now.”

Despite the hazy security footage and 911 call, police are sticking to their story. So, someone is lying. But who? Fortunately, at least two witnesses captured the beating on their cell phones. However, the devices were immediately seized by police, which is illegal in California.

Cops vs. Witnesses

Kern County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ray Pruitt says that a deputy with a canine was responding to a call from Kern Medical Facility late Tuesday night about an intoxicated man outside when he spotted and approached Silva at a nearby intersection. Pruitt claims that Silva put up a fight when the deputy attempted to take him into custody, at which point more deputies and two California Highway Patrol officers showed up to help. Silva then had trouble breathing. He was taken to Kern Medical Center and died less than an hour later.

But Witnesses tell a very different story.

Just minutes before Silva’s encounter with police, a woman, who asked not to be identified, told ABC23 that she saw Silva lying on the sidewalk seemingly unconscious. “I seen the guy laying there. I thought something was wrong with him. Then when I saw him moving… I saw his chest  moving up and down…I knew that he was just drunk and eventually he’ll wake up,” the woman said.

It’s hard to imagine that Silva was able to muster the strength to fight off several police officers just minutes after he was purportedly incapacitated.

Ruben Ceballos, 19, told The Bakersfield Californian he was at his home and in bed when he awoke around midnight to screams and loud bangs, which he soon recognized as the sound of police batons smashing into Silva’s skull. “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,” Ceballos said. The beating continued for several minutes despite the desperate cries for help. Then Silva went silent and became unresponsive, Ceballos said.

“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.”

The Sheriff’s office told the Californian that they will not comment on the case until their investigation into the matter is complete.

Recording the Police is Not a Crime

Criminal law attorney John Tello is representing seven witnesses to Silva’s beating. Two of them say they recorded the incident on their cell phones. Tello told the Californian of the disturbing lengths police went to seize his client’s device:

“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.

Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.

When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn’t take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said.

“This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed,” Tello said. “These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem.”

A search warrant wasn’t presented to either of the witnesses until after Tello arrived, he said, adding that one phone was seized before the warrant was produced.

Tello said the phone of the first witness was taken after the deputies told him he was either going to give up the phone the easy way or the hard way.

“They basically told him they were either going to keep him at this house all night until they could find a judge to sign a search warrant or he could just turn over his phone,” he said.

The witness gave up his phone two hours before he had to get to work and was told by deputies that he could collect his phone the next day after they had extracted the evidence they needed, Tello said.

However, the witness never got his phone back, Tello said, and was told it could take years before he does because the investigation could take a long time.

“My main concern is that these witnesses are not harassed by deputies because this case can make others who see crimes happening not want to speak up because of the way law enforcement handles situations,” Tello said.

If the deputies did in fact beat a helpless man to death, they have good reason to fear the recordings.

In Fullerton, California, just two and half hours away from Bakersfield, cell phone footage was instrumental in holding police accountable for beating Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, to death in 2011.

Though California is a two-party consent state (requires all parties to consent to an audio or video recording for the the recording to be legal), the law does not apply in public settings due to an “expectation of privacy” provision. More importantly, police are not permitted  to confiscate a cell phone unless the phone was used in a crime. Therefore, the seizure of cell phones by the Sheriff’s deputies was illegal.

Silva’s Family Wants Answers

Silva’s younger brother, 31-year-old Christopher, was devastated after learning the details of his brothers death from witnesses. “My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life,” he told the Californian.

The family has since hired attorney David Cohn.

At a press conference Friday, Cohn praised witnesses for “policing the police” by recording the beating. He also expressed concern that the police might tamper with the footage.

“Those videos that were taken are the most important piece to this case and another main concern is that those videos aren’t altered or destroyed by the Sheriff’s Department,” Cohn said. “We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. And thank God we have concerned citizens who take video and pictures of incidents like this and who are ultimately policing the police.” He addressed the Sheriff’s department directly, asking, “what are you hiding?”

The family has yet to see Silva’s body as they patiently await the results of an autopsy conducted on Thursday. The coroner’s office says the cause of death is pending toxicology and microscopic studies.

Meanwhile, Silva’s mother, Merri, is struggling with how to tell her grandchildren that they no longer have a father. But her grief has only strengthened her desire for justice, which goes far beyond her son’s horrific death. Expressing concern for future victims of police brutality, she told the Californian, “If I don’t do anything about my son’s death then it will just be pushed to the side and I don’t want this to happen to another person.”

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24 Comments
  1. Terrible tragedy.

    Typo alert: Police are sticking to their story.

    May 10, 2013
    • Thanks. Grammar and I have not been getting along this week.

      May 11, 2013
      • Justin #

        You’re forgiven. You do such a great job that it should never go thankless… thank you.

        May 11, 2013
      • James #

        Rania, Your wonderful and thank you for this report……

        May 15, 2013
  2. its Bakersfield down in the south of the central valley.

    May 10, 2013
  3. Peter Hindrup #

    Ought to be simple enough. Either the phones are returned intact, with the recordings intact, or the witnesses testimony ought to stand unchallenged.

    If the police want their side of the story told,produce the phones with the intact video.

    Here in NSW, Australia, conversations recorded without the permission of the other cannot be used in evidence. Despite this, in court I said that I had the recording and I was more than willing to have my side of the conversation heard and considered.

    the other party’s lawyer of course refused point blank and the court decided that as the tape could probably clear the matter up, while the other party could refuse to have it played, it indicated that that party had something to hide. .

    I won.

    May 11, 2013
    • Jerry #

      Wow that’s pretty messed up. If there’s nothing to hide then return the cell phones.

      May 11, 2013
    • In the states, the 5th Amendment doesn’t allow for inferences due to invoking it. However, inferences associated with destruction of evidence or not producing evidence that allegedly could be exculpatory DO allow inferences. In this instance, given the event occurred in public, no expectation of privacy attached. Thus, the video is admissible.
      -amicuscuria.com/wordpress-

      May 11, 2013
  4. Only in California

    May 11, 2013
    • Concerned citizen #

      The scary thing is that this doesn’t ONLY happen in California. It happens all over the country. Police departments stick up for their officers up until it becomes evident that the officers really messed up, and even then, the reprimands are not enough for the crime committed. Based on what this article presents, this is plain murder. I hope justice is served.

      May 12, 2013
  5. Lonnie #

    Bakersfield, Ca… not Bakersville. This happened right across the street fron where I was born and around the corner from where I grew up.

    May 11, 2013
  6. GodlessPeace #

    We are anonymous We are legion We do not forgive We do not forget to the police officers inbvolved your life as you know it ,is OVER!!!

    May 11, 2013
  7. not right. not right at all…

    well done on highlighting these crimes to the masses

    The Almighty’s Blessings

    May 12, 2013
  8. One can probably assume that the more he begged the more the cops enjoyed it!!!

    May 14, 2013
  9. Rex #

    “My main concern is that these witnesses are not harassed by deputies because this case can make others who see crimes happening not want to speak up because of the way law enforcement handles situations,” Tello said.

    Which is the whole point of the cops doing that

    May 15, 2013
  10. whoah this weblog is fantastic i love learning your posts. Keep up the fantastic paintings! You currently know, a lot of individuals are hunting about for this information, you can aid them significantly

    May 16, 2013
  11. A #

    Lies, corruption & cover-ups. That’s what the family will have to battle in addition to their tragic loss. Happens in SC. I hold proof. Pictures speak volumes. Very corrupt. The badge has been shamed.

    May 17, 2013
    • This sounds like an instance when camera and video was a good thing but don’t forget that PICTURES DO NOT SPEAK VOLUMES, since Kennedy’s assassination pictures have been photo-shopped and edited, even Stalin had himself photographed next to a stallion but the man holding the stallion was “erased” from original because Stalin wanted to “appear” more powerful standing next to the stallion alone. I agree the corruption and abuse of power must stop, thanks for sharing…

      May 25, 2013
  12. Kalifornia Kops Kan, see the letters, this is what I fear for Colorado, to become like Kali and turn into Kolorado Kops Kan 2…

    May 25, 2013
  13. Reblogged this on James Holmes and commented:
    End police brutality, corruption and abuse of power, be vigilant. Help the good cops fight the bad kops.

    May 25, 2013
  14. Please keep on this story. I just went to the “Californian” but the story was redacted. When you see the lid closing, that’s the time for a can opener.

    May 26, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. May 16, 2013-Kern County Sheriff’s-Names, years of dirty cop’s involved in killing innocent man! | Corruption everywhere today!
  2. Kern County Sheriff’s Who Beat David Silva Doxed by Anonymous | DEMOTROPOLIS
  3. Kern County Deputies Who Beat David Silva Doxed by Anonymous | DEMOTROPOLIS

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