Central Bakersfield

Protesters take on alleged brutality by Kern County deputies

Protesters take on alleged brutality by Kern County deputies »Play Video
About two dozen protesters are seen Thursday, May 16, 2013, at the Liberty Bell in front of the courthouse in downtown Bakersfield, Calif., calling for change after they claim 33-year-old David Silva, of Bakersfield, was beaten to death by Kern County deputies during an arrest May 7, 2013. Some of the protesters appeared to be from out of town, and some of their T-shirts referenced people other than Silva.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — About two dozen protesters marched in downtown Bakersfield, calling for changes to officer behavior after the death of a man in sheriff's custody. The protest was led by one of the witnesses who got cellphone video of the incident on May 7.

The protesters started at the Liberty Bell outside the Kern County Courthouse, marched up Chester Avenue, circled past an office of the District Attorney, and returned to the courthouse.

"All this stuff going on, and everything like that, pretty much needs to stop." Melissa Quair said. "They're here to protect and serve. Let's do that."

Quair and her family happened to come out of Kern Medical Center May 7 at about midnight. They saw the incident when David Silva, 33, was being detained by a number of officers. The Kern County Sheriff's Department reports Silva resisted, officers deployed the deputy's K-9 and used batons. Silva died later at KMC.

 The protesters on Thursday carried signs including "Stop police brutality" and "We have to speak out now."

"I just feel like now-a-days we can't come to the police for help, because we might get attacked," Tamala Davison told Eyewitness News. She was one of the protesters.

The incident with Silva has gained a lot of attention. Eyewitness News was told some of the protesters were from out of town. Some also wore masks, which they said were a sign of anonymity.

The sheriff's department reports a deputy was called to Flower Street and Palm Drive on reports of a possibly intoxicated man. They say the confrontation with Silva lasted eight minutes. Eventually there were seven of their officers as well as two California Highway Patrol officers who responded.

Two members of Quair's family got cellphone video of the incident, and their two phones were seized by sheriff officers within a few hours. That has also raised concerns.

Then earlier this week, the sheriff's department announced a review of the cellphones by the Bakersfield Police Department found there was no video of the incident on one of those phones. Sheriff Donny Youngblood then asked the FBI to analyze the cellphones and do a "parallel investigation" of the incident.

At Thursday's protest, Quair said she can't discuss the phones now. "We can't speak on that," she told Eyewitness News. "But, like we said, the truth will be revealed." The family says they saw video of the incident on both cellphones.

The phones were returned to the family on Wednesday, and they're now being analyzed by their attorney.

It's not known why one phone has no video now. The family has told Eyewitness News they removed a "card" from one phone, it's not clear if that could have been a factor.

The sheriff's department has said they need to review any video and do a thorough investigation of the incident.

Tamala Davison said she understands there's a need for more information. "I think it's true that there's two sides to every story," she said. "But, what we've seen is brutal."

So far, a neighbor's security camera video has been made public. It's dark,  blurry and from a distance. But, that video shows someone apparently on the ground, and what looks like others striking that person.

Quair's family and other witnesses have reported they saw a number of baton blows by officers, and they heard the man begging for help.

"What they did wasn't right," James Taylor said. He was marching, carrying a large sign. The change he wants to see? "The sheriff needs to do better training," he said. "More training."

The attorney for the family with the cellphone video says he hopes that can be made public by Friday.