“Is this Rodney King all over again, but in Kern County?”
Those are the words of lawyer David Cohn, referring to the case of David Sal Silva, a 33-year-old father of four who died in custody last Wednesday after an alleged confrontation with Kern County and California Highway Patrol officers in Bakersfield, California. Cohn is representing the Silva family and his reference to King is not an exaggeration. Something horrific happened last week in Bakersfield, and it is a tale of cellphone videos, possible police coverup, an FBI investigation, and a silent outrage that has begun to hit the national media (CNN, New York Times, HuffPost), but is nowhere near the level of the King beating or the Trayvon Martin case, even though the Silva case so far has more public footage of the incident than those two famous stories.
Yet where is the national outrage? Where are the tweets and the hashtags and the calls for justice? Where are the cameras descending onto Bakersfield with 24/7 coverage? Is the mainstream media more consumed by Washington issues and Cleveland kidnapping stories? Apparently.
The Silva case should shake this nation to the core. Yet we stay silent. Perhaps these details will convince you: There were reports that Silva was struck “more than a dozen times” by police batons, that witnesses took videos of the incidents, videos that were seized by Bakersfield police hours after the incident. Silva died in custody. Witnesses have already gone on record to question the police’s story that Silva was intoxicated and struggling with police. There are even claims that one of the cellphone videos has already been erased by police though there is no proof that one of the cellphone videos confiscated by police is missing. The Kern County Sheriff has had to bring in the FBI to investigate. The cellphone videos are now being analyzed by the FBI. And Silva’s family, through Cohn, are raising serious questions as to how the entire matter has been handled.
Do you need to hear the chilling 911 call? Here it is.
Do you have to watch the grainy security video obtained by The Los Angeles Times of shadowy figures allegedly beating someone?
One local report from Bakersfield this week provides even more details:
“He had some kind of a problem with the wife, left the house, talked to his mom and said he was going for help at the hospital,” said Ralph Silva, David Silva’s uncle.
David Silva’s uncle said no one knows what happened next. 17 News obtained security video from a home, that appears to show a violent encounter between deputies and Silva, near the hospital.
Deputies said Silva was intoxicated and confrontational. “Maybe he’s trying to defend himself from someone trying to grab him. It doesn’t call for a death,” said Silva.
Let’s say that Silva was drunk. Does it merit his death? How threatening can a drunk person be in front of nine officers with batons?
As Laura Vazquez, a witness to the scene, told the The New York Times:
She said that sheriff’s deputies told Mr. Silva to stay on the ground. When he tried to get up, she said, deputies ran up and hit him in the head with their clubs. Soon, she said, he was crying for help as at least eight officers hit him, kicked him and pressed their knees into his chest and stomach.
“For the first couple minutes he was screaming for help, basically pleading for his life,” said Ms. Vasquez, 26. “Then we couldn’t see him anymore. That’s how many cops were on top of him.”
Then there is this telling quote from Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who finally put the six Kern County officers on paid leave after claiming that their lives were being threatened, about the one cellphone video now with the FBI: “I have seen the video. I cannot speculate whether [the officers] acted appropriately or not just by looking at the video. Baton strikes were used but what I don’t know is how many and where they were on the body and if they caused significant injury that caused death.”
So where is the outrage? Is it because Silva’s parents are not sharing their thoughts publicly to the media and instead are having Cohn speak for them? Is the mainstream media being distracted by other stories? And where are the national Latino organizations like MALDEF and NCLR on this?
Last week in Bakersfield, a Latino father died in custody at the hands of police.
The community needs to wake up and demand that justice is served. We owe it to the memory of David Silva. We owe it to his family.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.