Tuesday, May 14, 2013

After deadly police beating, witness cellphones confiscated

After deadly police beating, witness cellphones confiscated
David Sal Silva was reportedly seen and recorded being beaten to death by California police
By Natasha Lennard
May 13, 2013

Following the death of father of four David Sal Silva last week, his family’s attorneys are calling for police to release bystander video evidence that reportedly shows California’s Kern County officers brutally beating the 33-year-old. A video from a surveillance camera (which does not show the scene close-up) has been released and shows the man repeatedly struck with a baton. Local press have also reported on details from a 911 call made, in which witness Sulina Quair, 34, said “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.” Officers say they were responding to a call about an intoxicated man and that Silva had fought them.

Attorneys representing the Silva family expressed concern that police may tamper with video evidence and demanded that they be given access to any recordings of the lethal incident. Details emerged, the Bakersfield Californian reported, that officers confiscated the phones of bystanders who had captured the event as it unfolded. Police reportedly arrived at Quair’s home to take his phone.

The local paper reported:

At a news conference at his downtown Bakersfield office, attorney David Cohn, representing the Silva family, said the videos were vital evidence. He expressed concern about tampering.

“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 Cohn, of the firm Chain, Cohn, Stiles.

Later in the day, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he was asking the public to be patient and give his office the opportunity to conduct an investigation. He was critical of comments made by lawyers for the family and the witnesses.

“It appears that a couple attorneys are making statements based on I don’t know what because the investigation hasn’t been completed yet,” Youngblood said.

Cohn was flanked at the news conference by Silva’s mother, father and brother. They did not speak.

Cohn said he plans to file a civil rights lawsuit in federal District Court in Fresno next week.

Kelly Thomas' father 'totally disgusted' by Kern County beating
Kate Mather
Los Angeles Times
May 14, 2013

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Monday that it was too early in the investigation to reach any conclusions about Silva's death. But he defended the decision to take custody of the phones as a way of preserving possible evidence. The sheriff said his office obtained a search warrant for the phones and asked the Bakersfield Police Department to analyze the videos to remove the appearance of any conflict.

Ron Thomas said he spoke to Cohn over the weekend and planned to talk to Silva's family Tuesday. He said he would offer to help in any way he can, including going with the family to talk to the Kern County sheriff.

He also had advice based on his own experience, recommending the family "immediately" get the investigation to the district attorney or state attorney general's office, reach out to potential witnesses, and ramp up public pressure.

"If there's no pressure, there's no result," Ron Thomas said. "They would not have done it in Fullerton -- look at all the changes in Fullerton. I was a thorn in the side constantly and made them do their job."

Kelly Thomas' death roiled the Orange County community, prompting protests, memorials and a recall election as the incident drew international attention.

Three former members of the Fullerton police now face criminal charges in the death, including one officer who is accused of second-degree murder. Police Chief Michael F. Sellers took a medical leave amid calls for his resignation. He eventually stepped down.

Three City Council members perceived as protecting the embattled Police Department were ousted in a recall, and at one point the City Council considered disbanding the department and handing over law-enforcement authority to the sheriff.

Ron Thomas said the Kern County incident brought up memories of his son's case.

"It's very tough," he said. "I just happen to be in a whirl right now -- if I slow down, I'll get choked up."

"We've got to stop this," he said later. "We the people have got to stop this."

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