If the Kern County Sheriff's Department wants to create a culture of transparency in the community, why has video footage of the events before David Sal Silva's death not been revealed yet?
This is the question Attorney David Cohn, representing the Silva family, is concerned about. And he wants an answer.
"Those videos that were taken are the most important piece to this case and another main concern is that those videos aren't altered or destroyed by the Sheriff's Department," Cohn, of the firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles said at a news conference at his downtown Bakersfield office Friday.
Thirty-three-year-old Silva, the father of four young children, died early Wednesday morning after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who'd responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center. They said he had trouble breathing and died at KMC.
Some witnesses apparently took cellphone video of the incident but deputies moved quickly to seize the phones. The Sheriff's Office, after releasing a statement Wednesday and naming its officers Thursday, declined all further comment.
"We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words," Cohn said. "And thank God we have concerned citizens who take video and pictures of incidents like this and who are ultimately policing the police."
People who say they witnessed the incident as well as Silva's family members described a scene in which deputies essentially were beating a helpless man to death.
Cohn has sent letters to government agencies requesting that any videos that were collected not be altered or tampered with. He sent the letters, he said, to the Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and Bakersfield Police Department.
The Sheriff's Office has not informed Cohn or the family of the results of an autopsy done Thursday, but Cohn is confident that the results will be accurate.
Friday morning, the coroner's office reported that the cause of death is pending toxicology and microscopic studies.
"I have two grieving parents and one grieving brother who want to see the body of their son and brother," Cohn said. "But we will get to the bottom of this and I ask the sheriff's department once again, what are you hiding?"
The mother, father and brother of Silva were at the news conference, but did not speak.
Cohn said he plans to file a civil rights case federal District Court in Fresno next week.