Criminal Justice

Cops seize cellphone videos said to document fatal beating by deputies; did one get erased?

A witness who had been visiting a Bakersfield, Calif., hospital with family members called 911 last week and reported that deputies across the street had just beaten a man to death. The witness, Sulina Quair, also said she had evidence to back up her claim.

The Bakersfield Californian publicized the 911 recording. “There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the [expletive] out of him and killed him,” Quair said. “I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole [expletive] thing.” She then gives her location, adds more details of the alleged beating, and adds, “I got it all on video camera and I’m sending it to the news. These cops have no reason to do this to this man.” She then provided her phone number.

The man who died on May 8 was David Sal Silva, 33. Kern County sheriff’s deputies later seized two cellphones thought to contain videos, taken not by Quair, but by her mother and her sister’s boyfriend, report the New York Times and the Bakersfield Californian. The witnesses claimed they were detained in their homes while search warrants were obtained.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the videos were seized as evidence of his deputies’ conduct, and he gave them to Bakersfield police on Friday to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest. However an examination by Bakersfield police showed there was no video of the alleged beating on one of the two seized cellphones. Youngblood says he now has turned the cellphones and the matter over to the FBI, the Bakersfield Californian reports in a separate story.

“I asked the FBI, number one, to take the phones and see … what’s on the phones,” Youngblood said at a press conference on Tuesday, “and number two, could something have been removed from these phones, and if so, can we show that something was removed.” He has also asked the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation of the alleged beating. His office previously issued a statement that said deputies who responded to a report of an intoxicated man acted to subdue Silva when he resisted arrest.

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