David Sal Silva died “begging for his life” as he struggled and was beaten by as many as nine police officers, witnesses say this week.
The 33-year-old father of four young children died early Wednesday after Bakersfield, California, police officers responding to a report of an intoxicated man beat Silva. Deputies say the man fought with them and with California Highway Patrol officers, but witnesses and family members dispute that account.
The official police account of events is that Davis Sal Silva resisted police officers, leading them to deploy a canine and use batons to subdue him. Silva later had trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Witnesses say they took cellphone video of the incident, but deputies moved in quickly to take the phones. Those witnesses say they watched police beating a helpless man to death.
“My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life,” said David’s brother Christopher Silva, who spoke to witnesses but was not there the night his brother died.
Witnesses say even as Silva pleaded for help, police did not stop striking him.
“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,” said Ruben Ceballos, a neighbor who was awakened by the sound of screaming.
On Friday an attorney representing the Silva family held a new conference, expressing concern that police could tamper with the videos that were seized.
“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,” said David Cohn, of the firm Chain, Cohn, Stiles.
Video of the incident and an audio tape of a 911 call, both released by KERO television, seem to corroborate the witnesses. The video, taken from a surveillance camera from a distance, appears to show someone being struck repeatedly with a stick as other law enforcement vehicles join the scene.
The 911 call shows witness Sulina Quair 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.”
The Sheriff’s Office identified the officers involved in the arrest as Sgt. Douglas Sword and deputies Ryan Greer, Tanner Miller, Jeffrey Kelly, Luis Almanza, Brian Brock, and David Stephens.
A representative from the Sheriff’s Office said they will not comment on the David Sal Silva case until the investigation is over.