After cell phone video of David Sal Silva allegedly being beaten to death by police officers went missing, the Kern County sheriff has asked the FBI for help.
Witnesses said police officers beat Silva to death with batons last week in an incident that several of them captured on cellphone video. Police in Bakersfield, California had been called for a report of an intoxicated man and found the 33-year-old father of for reportedly passed out.
Witnesses claim that officers struck David Sal Silva on the head with batons several times as he lay on the pavement.
Police later showed up to the home of two of the witnesses who had taken video. The couple said officers ordered the couple to turn over their cell phones, but the pair refused. Officers remained in their home while waiting for a search warrant, and the male witness finally relented and gave up his phone when he had to leave for work.
Though two videos were seized, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said only one video was recovered. He then asked the FBI to analyze the cell phones to see if the videos could be recovered.
“I took the unprecedented step of asking the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation,” Youngblood told The Los Angeles Times. “Our credibility is at stake here.”
Youngblood added that the officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.
The David Sal Silva killing has put a spotlight on Bakersfield and the actions of the officers. The official police account said Silva fought with officers, leading officers to deploy a canine and use batons to subdue him. Silva later stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital, where he died.
But witnesses tell a different story, saying David Sal Silva died “begging for his life” as he struggled with as many as nine police officers.
“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.
A 911 call released by KERO television backed up Ceballos.
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.”
At least one video of the David Sal Silva beating may have been preserved. A woman who lived nearby but slept through the shouting and police sirens later found out about the killing and checked her surveillance video. She found that the camera had been trained right on the spot where the incident took place, capturing the events leading to Silva’s death.
After hearing about how the other videos had gone missing, the woman did not turn it over to police. Instead, she found the brother of David Sal Silva and gave it directly to him. She has remained anonymous, fearing a backlash from police.