Sheriff’s investigators served a search warrant on Kern Medical Center and the Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center seeking medical records to find possible reasons for David Sal Silva’s behavior prior to and during his encounter with law enforcement, The Californian learned Friday.
The warrant shows that investigators asked for surveillance video and medical records. The document does not detail what information was acquired.
Silva’s in-custody beating and subsequent death have drawn national attention and have put the actions of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and his deputies under a spotlight.
Family members have suggested that Silva, who was outside KMC when approached by deputies late at night, might have gone there to seek treatment.
Silva, 33, died in the early morning hours of May 8, less than one hour after six deputies, a sheriff’s sergeant and two California Highway Patrol officers responded to the scene. The sheriff has said he resisted arrest. Witnesses have said he then was beaten with batons.
Later, he stopped breathing, but no cause of death has been determined.
The disclosure came on a day when the witnesses enlisted a new lawyer to represent them.
That news came during an odd press conference late Friday at which the witnesses’ first lawyer, John Tello, announced the change of attorneys while also saying that cellphone videos would not be released — at least on Friday.
Speaking in front of his downtown Bakersfield office, Tello did little more than read from a prepared statement. In it, he said his six clients, all witnesses to last week’s beating, have retained the services of Bakersfield attorney Daniel Rodriguez as Rodriguez has extensive experience in civil rights and other cases involving the violation of citizens’ rights.
He said Rodriguez was out of town.
Tello also said the cellphone analyst he contracted to examine the phones is not expected to have a report finished until Monday or Tuesday.
Tello had said earlier this week he might release video from the phones as early as Friday. He also suggested he might have results from the forensic analysis of the phones. None of that happened.
Officials have not released the results of an autopsy, pending a toxicology report to determine whether Silva had drugs in his system.
The cellphones owned by two witnesses, Maria Melendez and Francisco Arrieta, who said they captured video footage of the incident, were confiscated by sheriff’s investigators hours after Silva’s death. The manner in which witnesses were detained by investigators has also been at the heart of much controversy.
The cellphones were returned to their owners through Tello’s office on Wednesday. But one of the phones, the one owned by Melendez, was found to have no video.
Youngblood verified that a baton or batons were used on Silva but the department has not detailed how many times Silva was struck.
Youngblood has urged the public to be patient and let investigators finish their work before drawing conclusions about what happened. The sheriff’s department is investigating the deputies’ actions; Youngblood has asked the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation.
Staff writer Laura Liera contributed to this report.