Police Seize Witnesses' Cell Phones After Beating a 'Possibly Intoxicated' Man to Death
Tech Dirt - How many law enforcement officers does it take to subdue one intoxicated man? In Bakersfield, CA, it takes nine: seven sheriff's deputies, two CHP officers and a police dog. It also appears that being publicly intoxicated and resisting arrest in Bakersfield is punishable by immediate death in the same county.
At this point, consider everything regarding the beating to be "alleged." After all, we don't have any conclusive evidence of what happened, despite two people filming it (and a handful of eyewitnesses) because law enforcement made sure every recording of the event (except one -- more on that in a bit) was seized as "evidence."
Also, keep in mind that David Silva, the thirty-three year old father of four who was allegedly beaten to death by nine law enforcement officers, was only allegedly intoxicated and violent. Evidence of his crime(s) disappeared along with the footage of multiple cops swinging batons. (I suppose this will be verified when the autopsy results are made public, presumably featuring a full toxicology report.)
Here's an eyewitness account of the beating:
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.The phones used to record the incident were seized by law enforcement as "evidence." As it's highly doubtful the sheriff's department is looking into charging a dead man with a crime, the only "investigation" possible would be a look into the actions of the officers at the scene. This also means the only criminal activity captured on film would be the officers'. Turning over the only copy of evidence to the perpetrators is generally considered to be a terrible idea. But when you've just witnessed nine law enforcement officers beat a man into unconsciousness (and eventual death), your normal citizen is probably going to think twice before telling another officer, "No."
"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.
But the witnesses held out as long as they could. The incident happened around midnight. The two witnesses who had recorded the event (a male whose name hasn't been released and Maria Melendez) were called back to their apartment by the sheriff's department. This was at 3 AM. At that point, the officers demanded they turn over their cell phones. They refused to do so without being served a warrant. The officers then detained them in the apartment, telling them they couldn't leave without turning over their phones.
Three hours later, the male turned over his phone, stating he needed to be to work in a couple of hours. The officers detained Melendez for nearly nine hours. The search warrant finally arrived around noon and Melendez relinquished her phone. The two witnesses were told they could pick up their phones the next day. When the unnamed male went to recover his, he found the timeframe had now changed to "months, even years" before he could get his phone back.
Two bits of evidence have made their way into the public, unimpeded by sheriff's deputies with endless amounts of time to waste and rights to violate. The first is a 911 call reporting the beating made by Salinas Quair, Melendez's daughter. This call alerted law enforcement to the fact that the (alleged) beating had been recorded, triggering the intimidating roundup (and detainment) of these witnesses.
There's a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the [explicit] out of him and killed him," said the woman. "I have it all on video camera."The second piece of evidence, a security camera recording, was turned over by an individual who (unsurprisingly) has refused to go on camera or reveal his or her name.
The woman continued:
"I am sitting here on the corner of Flower and Palm right now and you have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Sheriffs. The guy was laying on the floor and eight Sheriff's ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now."
Here's KERO TV's (Bakersfield) description of the recordings' contents.
The grainy black and white video appears to show the alleged victim, David Silva, 33, lying on the ground. Another person is then seen walking up to Silva and attempting to pick him up. Both men appear to scuffle, and after a few minutes, Silva is seen being struck with an object.If you click through and watch the footage, at about 4:05 an officer can be seen taking a two-handed swing with a baton. Shortly thereafter, more officers arrive. One of the first to arrive also takes a two-handed swing with a baton. In all, nine baton-swinging officers showed up. A spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Office reassures everyone that the officers felt no need to deploy any of their other weaponry, as well as undercounting the number of respondents.
Other cars are seen arriving at the scene with lights flashing on top of them. Several other men are then seen in the video, also striking Silva more than a dozen times with objects. Silva is then seen being taken into custody.
KCSO Spokesperson Ray Pruitt told 23 ABC it took 5 deputies, 2 CHP officers and a K-9 to subdue Silva.His count is off.
Pruitt said officers were forced to use their batons to arrest Silva but no tazers, pepper spray or guns were used during the altercation.
Here are the names of the Sheriff's Department personnel involved in the incident, as released by the Sheriff's Office.
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.That's seven from the sheriff's department. The names of the two CHP officers have not been released. That's nine altogether, plus a police dog.
One has to wonder, though, how the officers were "forced" to use their batons. Perhaps some force was needed to subdue Silva, but with nine officers responding (and swinging), you'd think the tide would have turned in law enforcement's favor long before Silva lost consciousness. And how much "resistance" did Silva actually offer, considering the first officer on the scene was responding to a call from Kern Medical Center security who reported Silva as "passed out?"
End result: a man loses his life for being intoxicated. Nine officers
Not content to limit its wrongdoing to a beating, deputies then barge into a home without a warrant and detain two citizens against their will, one of them for nearly nine hours, until the warrant they should have needed just to get in the door at 3 AM finally shows up at noon.
Now, all of the inarguable evidence is in the hands of the same people who would prefer it just went away. It will be tough for them to get away with simply deleting the recordings, but stranger things have happened to evidence that implicates law enforcement officers but has ended up in the possession of law enforcement. The recording can be termed "unrecoverable" or have inexplicably large gaps in the footage. Or the phone may be damaged during "processing." Sometimes, the evidence just vanishes conveniently and a lengthy internal investigation will unwind at a glacial pace until everyone loses interest.
There's a law enforcement problem here, and the problem is with the brand of "enforcement" that bypasses the law entirely. David Silva's death at the hands of police officers conjures up images of similar methods being deployed to subdue a schizophrenic homeless man in nearby Fullerton, CA. Kelly Thomas was beaten by several officers, resulting in a death by "mechanical suppression of the thorax." This one was caught on tape (via security camera), as well as captured more intimately by a microphone worn by one of the officers.
The people who witnessed this beating have nowhere to go. They can't trust the police and they've seen those who recorded the event quarantined in their home until they complied with the officers' requests to turn over their phones. If not for the constitutional violations committed by "law enforcement," the footage would already be publicly displayed. The longer the Sheriff's office delays in releasing this footage, the worse it appears. If this went down as described, there's no way law enforcement can hope to salvage some respect by attempting to downplay or justify the actions of these officers.
Even if Silva was putting up the fight of his life, he was intoxicated and was outnumbered 9-to-1. Any reasonable person would expect a suspect to be subdued before it got to the point where it became life-threatening. But any hopes of a reasonable outcome were discarded the moment that first two-handed swing connected.