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Cover-Up Alleged After Kern County Sheriff's Deputies Confiscate Video Of Man's Fatal Beating

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A scandal is rocking the sheriff's department of our neighbors to the north in Kern County: witnesses say that a helpless drunk was beaten to death by deputies while the man begged for his life.On the night of Wednesday May 8, David Silva, 33, went to a hospital in East Bakersfield to seek help for some sort of emotional troubles. He was turned away and told that he couldn't sleep at the hospital that night,David Cohn, an attorney for Silva's family, told the Los Angeles Times. He went across the street and fell asleep there.

Sheriff's deputies said that they got a call about a drunk man, and they said that when they arrived, Silva was sleeping. In a statement, they said they tried to restrain him and but he resisted arrest, and they were forced to use their batons on him. The beating lasted eight minutes, and eventually deputies performed CPR on him. Silva was hospitalized but he died within an hour of the beating.

But witnesses said Silva didn't resist arrest. They said when Silva woke up, he looked afraid and confused and deputies took a swing at him. Laura Vasquez told the Los Angeles Times, "Mr. Silva was reaching for his head and the officers said 'stop moving' and 'stop resisting.' He wasn't resisting.… He rolled on his back and they kept hitting."

The stories that witnesses told about the scene are horrific. Neighbors told the L.A. Times that late that night they were woken up by the sound of deputies' nightsticks striking Silva's head. Witnesses said Silva didn't resist and was in fact begging for his life as deputies struck him. They say they watched deputies hogtie him and then drop him on the ground—twice. They say eight officers eventually responded to the scene and swarmed Silva. Witnesses say that there was so much blood that they couldn't make out the features on Silva's face.

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Vasquez told the Times, "He was screaming for help. He was laying on his chest. The cops were still on top of him, still hitting him. My family and I screamed at them to stop hitting him.… The blood was all over Mr. Silva's face. We couldn't even tell if he had eyes or a mouth."

Maria Melendez told the New York Times, "He was like a piece of meat. We were telling them: 'He’s dead. You guys already killed him.'"

Witnesses felt powerless to stop what was going on. A friend of Vasquez asked someone to call the cops, and Vasquez reported, "[E]verybody looked at her and said, 'They ARE the cops.'"

One witness Sulina Quair, 34, claimed to take video of the incident and reported it in a 9-1-1 call:

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What happened after the beating is spurring allegations that the Kern County Sheriff's Department is trying to cover up the beating. Witnesses at the scene took video of what was going on, and told deputies that they were filming him (perhaps in an effort to get them to stop). But when the beating was done, deputies confiscated the cell phones of witnesses.

Two of the cell phones were returned this week, according to a local ABC affiliate KERO. The clients' attorney John Tello told the TV station that they are concerned that the videos may have been tampered with in the course of the last week. They are being sent to the FBI for forensic examining. Sheriff Donny Youngblood defended the move, telling the Times, "We still have to secure the evidence, especially when the evidence can tell us whether we did it right or wrong."

The department is conducting its own investigation of the incident, and it also asked the FBI to conduct an independent investigation. Youngblood said: "Our credibility is at stake here."

Two CHP officers also responded to the scene, so there is dash-cam footage from a CHP car. However, the only video of the incident that has hit the media is grainy footage from a surveillance camera in which you can sort of make out some figures beating Silva multiple times:

So far six deputies have been put on administrative leave, and that is because the Sheriff says that they received death threats and he is concerned about their safety.