A transcript of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood’s 3 p.m. May 23 news conference regarding the death of David Sal Silva follows:
Good afternoon. Welcome to the sheriff’s office. First of all, as you’re all well aware, I have asked the FBI to conduct their own investigation, and it’s independent of what we’re doing and they will have their own findings. I have also had a conversation with the district attorney yesterday and invited her to take a look, her office to take a look at this case, to feel free to do that.
On May 7th, 2013 at about 23:55 hours, we received a call of an intoxicated subject at the corner of Flower and Palm. The first deputy that arrived on scene found Mr. Silva laying on the sidewalk and uh, in an unconscious state. He attempted to wake Mr. Silva. He did a knuckle rub on his chest, which is a technique that we use that tends to get people up, and it woke Mr. Silva up. At one point, at more than one time he got up on his knees as if he was going to get up, and he fell over, and landed on his face.
The deputy then became concerned about Mr. Silva injuring himself so he tried to help him to his feet. As he helped him to his feet, Mr. Silva took a rigid stance, body tightened up, and the deputy said he felt like that he now was dealing with someone who was under the influence of narcotics as opposed to someone who was just under the influence of alcohol.
He attempted to gain control of the, of Mr. Silva. He was unsuccessful. He told Mr. Silva to submit, to, that he was under arrest, and to submit to the arrest, or he would turn the uh, release his dog. Ultimately, he used the remote to release his dog from his car and the dog engaged Mr. Silva. During this, uh, this uh, this fight, the dog bit Mr. Silva several times and at one point bit the handler.
Approximately six minutes later, the second deputy arrives. The, mister, the first deputy had already used his baton for two strikes on Mr. Silva. As he felt like he was losing the fight, and if he couldn’t keep Mr. Silva on the ground he was going to lose the entire incident, and his life would be in danger, the second deputy engaged with his baton and struck Mr. Silva several times. At one point, the, uh, Mr. Silva picked up the canine by the throat and the handler said he could see the hands closing in on the dog’s throat. The second deputy engaged the baton with baton strikes, to try and get him to let go of the dog, and the fight continued.
The third deputy arrived seven minutes after the beginning and helped the first two deputies try and control Mr. Silva. During that altercation, the third deputy used the baton twice. The, Mr. Silva continued to fight. When they would try and hold him down he would buck them off. He tried to kick them. The, shortly after that another minute passed and two CHP officers arrived. The two CHP officers exit their vehicle and try and help control Mr. Silva. Try to hold him down, try to keep his feet from kicking, and at one point, they, one of the deputies asked if they could get a hobble, which is a device that controls the legs from kicking while you’re trying to contain someone. The CHP officer got the hobble, and brought it over, and, about, at that time, deputies, uh, four and five arrive in a two-man unit.
One of those deputies is a very, very stout, large deputy who tried to control the legs of Mr. Silva, and he said he had to use all of his strength and he, to stay on top of those legs, to keep him from kicking the deputies. Once the, uh, they started to get control, deputies six and seven arrived. Only deputies one, two and three used batons. After that there were no more baton strikes. Deputies six and seven were actually a gang unit, they were assigned to a different assignment but came because of the, of the struggle.
During the altercation, we now know that the baton was used by three deputies and every strike was in the recognized area for law enforcement. There were, according to the autopsy, and according to pathologists, there were zero, no strikes to the head or the neck of Mr. Silva.
When you go to the autopsy report and the toxicology report, the toxicology shows that Mr. Silva had, in his system, amphetamine, methamphetamine, a blood alcohol of .095, phenazepam, and in his pocket, several hydrocodone, Vicodin and Soma pills. The pathologist, when he completed the autopsy report, I have not spoken to him personally, he is a part-time pathologist for us that contracts for us a couple days of the week, and for several other counties. He says that the cause of death for Mr. Silva is hypertensive heart disease, interval between on-set and death in his years. Acute- other conditions and contributors: acute intoxication, chronic alcoholism, severe abdominal obesity, chronic hypertension, and acute pulmonary cardiovascular strain, and the manner of death is accidental. With that, I’d be happy answering your questions.
Reporter: “Sheriff, do you believe that anything that happened that night with your deputies contributed to the death of Mr. Silva?”
Youngblood: I cannot speculate to what pathologist might testify I can tell you what the cause of death is and what the manner is.
Reporter: “The cause of death is hypertensive, death, disease. Is that right?
Reporter: “In layman’s terms, if you can, sort of explain what that sort of technical talk means.”
Youngblood: I can tell you a lot about hypertension. It’s uh, It uh, can cause the heart to be enlarged. In this case, that was the case. He had chronic, or acute severe hypertension, and uh, brought on by, uh, maybe a lifestyle, maybe, um, genetics, heredity, I don’t know.
Reporter: “And the manner of death is accidental?”
Reporter: “There’s very a portion of the community that feels, no matter how many reports you [inaudible] they’ll always feel that somehow this is being covered up, somehow, you know, swept under the rug. How would you respond to those people who are still concerned even after everything you just said?”
Youngblood: Well, I think the general public that I’ve been in contact with the last two weeks did what I asked them to do. They took a wait and see attitude. I wish I could say that about the media. The media, in my opinion, raced to be first, then raced to be right, and I think that the media caused a lot of this hysteria that occurred in this community. This type of incident is not uncommon in law enforcement across this country. This particular case and the way that this was handled in the media sent shockwaves all the way across the United States. Every law enforcement officer in this country was in question, and as I said in the beginning, if you would wait and be patient, I will give you the facts as I know them, and that’s what I’m doing today.
Reporter: “Why weren’t the tapes released sooner if you knew that one of the tapes wasn’t there right away or one of the cell phone videos, why didn’t, why wasn’t that said up front?“
Youngblood: What we learned is that if we released part of the investigation we would be required to release all of it and we were not completed with the investigation.
Reporter: “Have you heard or are you looking into the possibility that supposedly some deputies involved used social media to text about this incident how badly Mr. Silva’s condition was or that he had been hit with the baton strikes?”
Youngblood: I have no information about any deputy using social media to do what you just suggested
Reporter: “Are you looking, will you look into that?”
Youngblood: I have no information that that has occurred. If I get information that anything has occurred that appears to be improper, I’ll investigate it.
Reporter: “You say there were no strikes to the head, can you explain where all the bruising on his head comes from?”
Youngblood: The pathologist said that the, Mr. Silva had a, an abrasion on the right side of his face that was consistent with falling down. It was not consistent with a baton strike.
Reporter: “Some people have said he was hog tied, so the correct term for that would be ‘hobbled’ then?”
Youngblood: That’s correct.
Reporter: “Do you know how long that was in place for and what is your guy’s policy when it comes to using that?”
Youngblood: It appeared that it was a short period of time. It’s used only as a last resort. It’s important to know that one of the highway patrol officers in this case had been on 12 and a half years, and he said this is the most violent resistant arrest that he has seen in 12 and a half years.
Reporter: “Have you been able to determine whether or not the second cell phone ever contained video?”
Youngblood: My knowledge is that no one has been able to answer that question. The FBI still has the phones. I’m hoping that uh, that they are able to answer that with certainty one-way or the other.
Reporter: “Have you heard back from the FBI on their investigation into the Silva-”
Youngblood: I have not spoken to the FBI since the day I invited them in.
Reporter: “Is it unusual or concerning at all that, uh, one of the deputies involved in this incident was also involved in another fatal arrest, uh, several years prior?”
Youngblood: And which one would that be?
Youngblood: Which incident would…
Reporter: “…[most of question inaudible]
Youngblood: I’m not sure if you have the name correct. Are you talking about an incident that occurred in the desert? Were you talking about, which incident are you talking about?
Reporter: “I believe this one was here in town, to my understanding.”
Youngblood: I don’t think we had them any Tasers. I, I, I’m sorry. If you could be more specific I could tell you.
Reporter: “The deputy I’m referring to is [Youngblood touches paper to the mic, making name muffled, inaudible.]”
Youngblood: And he was deputy number 6 and 7 that arrived here, no baton strikes. He assisted. It, the event was pretty much ended by the time he got there; he helped hold Mr. Silva down.
Reporter: “How do you think the methamphetamine affected his actions or any of the other drugs? Sometimes people say with people on drugs they’re lot stronger, a lot more violent.”
Youngblood: We know that methamphetamine’s a horrible drug and we know that when you mix drugs with other drugs it can cause erratic behavior and in this particular case the deputies described someone who was under the influence of methamphetamine and other drugs and was extremely strong, extremely large, and it took this number of deputies to control him to keep from hurting himself or hurting deputies. And sometimes in a confrontation, you have to do what you have to do to keep someone from hurting themselves or hurting officers. We want to go home at night as well.
Reporter: “Sheriff the other part of the incident that also concerns the public is the fact that, as has been mentioned, deputies went to the home to seize those cell phones. They detained the family for several hours, the families which were not criminal suspects. The families were in their own home [Youngblood shuffles papers in front of mic, making part of question inaudible] Where does that stand right now as far as whether you guys acted legally in detaining those people in their own home?”
Youngblood: Well first of all, the media reported, I can’t remember the number of hours that we were in the home, anybody have it? 12, 13?
Youngblood: 11. The first time we were there for 2 hours and 29 minutes. We left, the second time we were there for 2 hours and 11 minutes. That’s a long ways from what was reported in the media. The first time that we went there, was to conduct interviews, and during those interviews we learned that people had, or potentially had, evidence. They said that they did. We’re all [word inaudible] police officers to seize evidence. We, we uh, before we get a search warrant on the first phone, the gentleman decided to give it up. He was free to leave at any time, ask anyone there, was free to leave at any time. No one was held hostage, you just couldn’t take the phone that had the evidence. Once he gave us the phone, while we were in the process of getting a search warrant, he left. The second one, we obtained a search warrant. We waited two hours and 11 minutes to get that search warrant and to seize that phone. That’s what we do. Phones are unique and are new. We understand that. But we believe the evidence was on there and I think my guys know better than to come back without the evidence. That’s what we do. That’s their job. The courts will rule whether we acted correctly or whether we did not I’m sure.
Reporter: “In those two hours that you were there, I understand the family members were not free to leave, to come and go?”
Youngblood: That is not true. They were free to leave at any point. What they couldn’t do is have family members that weren’t there already come in for officer safety reasons. While we’re standing, waiting for a search warrant, we’re not going to let six or eight or 10 more people come in the house and have an issue. So they couldn’t come in but anyone was free to leave. They just couldn’t take the phone.
Reporter: “and uh, as far as you know, did deputies ever tell the people who had cell phones that they could not not post that video on Facebook or any other social media site?”
Youngblood: No. What was actually said was, the question was asked of them, ‘Have you placed this on any of the social media networks?’ There was no direction that they could not. If you take a look at the witness statements in this case and then look at the evidence, it’s pretty clear that we had a group of witnesses out there that didn’t like law enforcement from the beginning. And if you look at the statements that they made, this number of baton strikes to the head that didn’t exist by eyewitnesses, and it goes on and on, so you know, I think the public is going to judge us by the facts. I think the public is going to judge us by the evidence. Not by propaganda.
Reporter: “Was he hog-tied when he went into cardiac arrest?”
Youngblood: The, uh-
Youngblood: He was hobbled, and one of the deputies noticed that, he was checking his pulse, 3 times in 30 seconds, and during that time the pulse became weak and the ambulance attendant showed up at exactly that time and they un-hobbled him, they checked him. He had no pulse, and they started CPR.
Reporter: “Did the deputies ever administer CPR or was that –“
Youngblood: Not that I’m aware of. I believe that was the ambulance [inaudible.]
Reporter: “The call this morning for an oversight committee into these matters for the community, what is your take on that?
Youngblood: That’s a great question but I will tell you, this case personifies exactly why a citizen review board is not a good idea. I, as the sheriff, or the chief of police, we deal in facts, we deal in law, and we deal in policy. We don’t deal in emotion. The public deals in emotion. The media controls the public’s emotions. We’ve seen that. There were public people and news media that wanted the deputies hung before they even had a trial. We received hundreds of emails throughout the country. We received threats. We had to guard our deputies. Deputies had to guard deputies. We had to take people off the streets to guard deputies because of this hysteria and the threats made against deputy sheriffs are ongoing to today, still coming…
Reporter: “Has any arrests been made in those cases?”
Youngblood: …from outside the county. No. None that I’m aware of. But from inside the county we’ve had a really, really great response. I think the people listened, and they were patient and understanding.
Reporter: “Can you tell us who was each deputy, like one through seven, six was [Deputy name stated but inaudible.] right?”
Youngblood: We learned our lesson. We’re not releasing deputy names in major incidents.
Reporter: “Sheriff could you explain a little bit more about this ‘hobbling,’ how it works?”
Youngblood: I’ve told you all I can tell you about hobbling and hog tying.
Reporter: “Are those deputies still receiving protection?”
Youngblood: The deputies are going to be cleared to go back to work. We’ll decide in the future when they will go back to work and when it’s safe, and when things have calmed down. We’re going to wait and see what happens after this press conference and then we’ll decide in the next day or two what to do.
Reporter: “Any idea how long the FBI will spend investigating this?”
Youngblood: You’d have to ask them. And hopefully the district attorney will take a look at this. We are trying to be as transparent with our public that we serve as we possibly can be. It’s unprecedented to invite the FBI in to conduct an, their own investigation, or to invite the district attorney in to take a look at any of the evidence that we’ve got. If you find something, do what you gotta do. But there’s nothing there.
Reporter: “How vindicated do you feel today by these results?”
Youngblood: It’s not vindication. I’ll be honest with you. I’m very disappointed in the way the local media handled this case from the beginning. When you put a headline in a newspaper that says what that says, that’s the igniter for what happened and it’s shameful. Anybody else? Thank you all for coming.