Dad who died during arrest ‘begged for his life’; witness videos seized


Blood stains are still visible on the sidewalk at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive, where a Bakersfield man struggled with as many as nine officers and later died this week.

David Sal Silva, 33 and the father of four young children, died early Wednesday morning after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who’d responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center.

Chris Silva speaks about his brother David Silva, 33, who died while being arrested by Kern County Sheriff’s Deputies early Wednesday morning. The incident happened across from Kern Medical Center at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive. Family members are questioning how David Silva died.  By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Ruben Ceballos, 19, who lives a few houses from where David Silva and the KCSD had an encounter resulting in the death of Silva early Wednesday morning, said he was a witness to the incident.  By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Family members of David Silva speak to area residents at Flower Street and Palm Drive concerning an incident between Silva and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department that ended early Wednesday morning with the death of Silva. A memorial of flowers and candles has been set up near where Silva died.  By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A photograph from the family of David Silva showing him and his three daughters Makayla, 10, Katelyn, 4, and Chelsey, 8.  By Photo courtesy of the family

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office says Silva resisted, a canine was deployed, more law enforcement arrived, batons were used and the man later had trouble breathing. He was taken to KMC, where he died. An autopsy was slated for Thursday, but no results have been released.

Some witnesses apparently took cellphone video of the incident but deputies moved quickly to seize the phones. The Sheriff’s Office, after releasing a statement Wednesday and naming its officers Thursday, declined all further comment.

People who say they witnessed the incident as well as Silva’s family members described a scene in which deputies essentially were beating a helpless man to death. They were indignant that cellphone video had been taken away by deputies.

“My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life,” said Christopher Silva, 31, brother of the dead man. He said he’s talked to witnesses but did not see the incident himself.

At about midnight, Ruben Ceballos, 19,was awakened by screams and loud banging noises outside his home. He said he ran to the left side of his house to find out who was causing the ruckus.

“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.

Silva was on the ground screaming for help, but officers continued to beat him, Ceballos said.

After several minutes, Ceballos said, Silva stopped screaming and was no longer responsive.

“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 said.

Other relatives demanded to know more.

David Silva’s mother, Merri Silva, 54, said, “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.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said a KMC security officer called deputies at about 11:55 p.m. Tuesday to report that there was a man in the area who was possibly intoxicated. A deputy with a canine found Silva at the southeast corner of the intersection and contacted him. It was then that Silva resisted and fought the deputy while the deputy tried to take him into custody, Pruitt said. More deputies and two California High Patrol officers arrived to help, Pruitt said.

Asked to respond to the family and witness allegations, Pruitt said no one from the Sheriff’s Office will comment or release information regarding the case until the investigation is over.

The office did identify 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.

The CHP hasn’t released the names of its officers at the scene.

On Thursday afternoon, Christopher Silva said the family had not yet been able to see his brother’s body, but had learned about different witnesses who had taken video footage of the incident.

“The true evidence is in those phones witnesses have that apparently the sheriff deputies already took,” Silva said. “But I know the truth will come out and my brother’s voice will be heard.”

John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.

“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.

Local defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey said, generally speaking, he believes law enforcement can seize cellphones or cameras at the scene under the theory that they’ve captured evidence of a crime. Because of the digital nature of the evidence, they could argue that it’s urgent they immediately take the cameras.

“It’s one of those murky areas that’s come about by the existence of modern technology,” said Humphrey, who is not involved in this case.

He said he thinks law enforcement officers would first ask for the person to voluntarily hand over the evidence, but they could just seize it and hold it until they get a court order to search it.

Silva left behind four children, ranging from ages 2 to 10 years old. As of Thursday afternoon, his mother said, they hadn’t figured out how to tell the children their father is dead. Merri Silva remembers her son as a happy person who loved his kids.

“We’re all hurt and it’s not something that I can comprehend and in part (it’s) because I feel that it still hasn’t hit me that he is gone,” the mother said.


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6 thoughts on “Dad who died during arrest ‘begged for his life’; witness videos seized

  1. That is absolutely criminal on the part of the police officers. How do they know that the guy wasn’t going into insulin shock or something else medical? It happened in our town. The 20 year old kid was Bipolar and went with his dad to the city clinic. He was already manic and paranoid and didn’t want to go back on his meds, and he ran through a plate glass window, escaping the clinic, tried to jump into someone’s car, but that person got away from him, and then down the street right by the police station to a convenience store nearby. before officers caught up to him. The officers from the station all piled on him and his father was screaming trying to tell the officers what was going on but they just kept piling on and beating his son. The kid died right there, and because of his sheer panic, it was a heart attack. The father who watched this happen to his son is a committed Christian man, but he has never been the same since. I understand officers have to subdue someone if they seem to be a danger to themselves or to others, but so excessive that someone dies? Gone are the days we can teach our children that policemen are their friend. Of course there was not so much as a reprimand of any of the officers.

  2. Amen! These police officers went way over the line on this one! I have seen it before and will see it again, unfortunately.

    God Bless Shekinah!

  3. This is an absolutely ridiculous abuse of power, and it is tragic. Unfortunately it is also becoming all to common an occurance. Our nations law enforcement officers are supposed to be “peace” officers who swear to protect and serve. When this is done, it is truly a noble profession. But when you give the corrupt heart power and authority, this it the type of thing that happens. These officers knew that they were breaking they law. I used to be an officer(graduated top of my class.) When we(officers) receive our use of force training, with the baton anything above the shoulders is considered DEADLY FORCE. Deadly force is ONLY allowed to be used in situations where you or another person or persons is at serious risk of extreme bodily injury or death.

  4. Amen! These officers were completely out of line and way overboard, abusing their power. They knew what they were doing. Very tragic and unnecessary. I pray for the family of this slain man.
    God bless!

  5. Yes indeed, this family absuloutely needs prayer, not only for God’s wonderous peace, but also for the ability to be able to forgive as He has.This is the example Christ set for us when he cried out to God seeking forgivness for the roman soldiers. The officers also need our prayers, prayers that their eyes will be opened to their sin and that their hearts will be opened to the Lord. It is such a horrible thing, but to if this man knew our Lord, while him family will miss him, it is a time for rejoicing. And if his passing and lead another to Christ, then all in Heaven will be rejoicing too. How awesome is that, to know that God is using you to do works that cause every angel to sing.
    May God bless and keep you…

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