Sheriff's Department returns cell phones to witnesses in David Silva's death

The attorney representing the witnesses says as soon as he makes a copy of the video, he will make it public.
BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Sheriff's Department on Wednesday returned a pair of cell phones confiscated from eyewitnesses to a deadly confrontation between a Bakersfield man and sheriff's deputies.

David Silva died in-custody after deputies struck him numerous times with batons late on the night of May 7th.

An attorney representing the eyewitnesses has not released the video to the public, saying his investigator is working first to copy and preserve the digital files. The attorney says he wants to see if any of the videos may have been altered or deleted.

"I can hear him yelling and asking for help." Maria Melendez says she videotaped the beating of Silva at the hands of deputies last week, but when her phone was returned to her attorney, the video was apparently gone.

An investigator hired by her attorney is looking over the data.

"My expert indicates to me it's going to take several hours to look at those phones to see what we can get from the phones," said attorney John Tello.

A second cell phone from one of Melendez' relatives contains three video clips of the incident, two of which are about three to four minutes in length.

"You could hear some sounds of his voice, moaning or crying out and other officers around him. It did not show any batons, but speaking to the person who took that video, he arrived a little after that and this is what he observed," said Tello.

Tello said a second video shot by Francisco Arrieta shows deputies performing CPR on Silva.

The third video has apparently been corrupted and is only three seconds long, but shows first responders loading Silva into an ambulance.

It would be the latest video evidence of the deadly confrontation since a nearby homeowner shared surveillance video from that evening with Silva's family.

Melendez and her family fought from the start to have their video made public, maintaining they wanted everyone to see for themselves what happened. But, deputies came to her door early that morning and eventually confiscated the phones with a search warrant.

"As soon as my expert extracts all of the video that we think is in the phones and I have that, I will notify the press and we will let everyone have it. We are not trying to hide anything," said Tello.

The phones were dropped off by a Sheriff's Department sergeant Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Sheriff Donny Youngblood announced he was postponing Law Enforcement Day.

Law Enforcement Day is an open house, where the public is invited to view how the department works.

"We want them to have a day that they can enjoy and not be disrupted and not turn into something we don't want it to turn into," said Sheriff Youngblood.

The sheriff says Silva's death has created intense scrutiny of his department. So much so, that he has placed the deputies involved on paid leave amid e-mail and phone threats that have flooded in from the public.

"Some are obscene. Some are threatening, not something you would expect from our public," he added.

The sheriff says most of the threats came from outside Kern County.

The sheriff says public safety here is key. He says he will reschedule Law Enforcement Day sometime in the future.
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