An attorney is demanding that the Kern County, California sheriffs return cell phones confiscated from witnesses to a deadly police beating that occurred Wednesday.
Thirty-three-year-old David Sal Silva was injured in an altercation with sheriffs and California Highway Patrol officers outside of Kern Medical Center, where the father of four children later died. Officers had responded to reports of an intoxicated man. Bystanders took video of the altercation, in which the officers are reported to have beaten Silva while he was on the ground. Seven sheriff’s deputies, two CHP officers, and a police dog were involved.
Bakersfield David Cohn, who represents Silva's family, said the cell phones were “vital evidence,” and is concerned about the possibility of police tampering with or destroying the videos. Cohn plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit in Fresno next week.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood has asked the public to be patient while the department conducts an investigation into its officers' conduct during the altercation.
On Friday, KERO television aired a video of the beating and audio of a 911 call.
On the 911 call, witness Sulina Quair is heard to say, “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.”
“I have been crying a lot and his voice just plays over and over in my head,” Quair told reporters Friday. “I sit there and I can still hear him choking in his own blood, trying to gasp for air.”
Quair's sister Melissa says that her boyfriend's cell phone was confiscated by police. The boyfriend gave up the phone to police, even though they did not have a warrant, because he did not want to be late for work. She said the police also demanded her phone, but that she would not turn it over without a warrant.
The cause of death report from the coroner’s office is waiting on toxicology and microscopic studies.
The sheriff’s office identified its officers involved in the arrest as Sgt. Douglas Sword, and deputies Ryan Greer, Tanner Miller, Jeffrey Kelly, Luis Almanza, Brian Brock, and David Stephens.