Silva family gets $3.4M in wrongful death

Posted at 7:17 PM, May 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-05 19:45:55-04

The family of David Sal Silva reached a settlement Wednesday in their wrongful death civil rights case. The family held a press conference together with their attorneys at the offices of Chain | Cohn | Stiles in downtown Bakersfield, to discuss details of the settlement. 

READ RELATED | 911 call: Deputies allegedly beat, killed David Silva


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On the night of May 7, 2013, David Silva fell asleep on a sidewalk across from Kern Medical Center, where he had unsuccessfully sought treatment in the hospital's emergency room and a nearby mental health facility.

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Silva was subsequently roused by the Kern County sheriff's deputies with a sternum rub, struck in the head and all over his body with batons, subjected to control holds and pain compliance techniques, bitten in the face by a police dog, and compressed against the pavement with weight on his back, handcuffed, hobbled twice, and hogtied, while a spit mask was placed over his head.

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Silva screamed to bystanders for help, and bystanders called 9-1-1 in an effort to stop the beating. For as long as 10 minutes, while Silva struggled to lift his chest off the ground, Kern County deputies pressed down – a deadly loop that lead (sic) inexorably to Silva’s death by asphyxiation. Silva became unresponsive while chest down with weight on his back and a spit mask filled with vomit over his face. When paramedics arrived, Silva did not have a pulse. 

The settlement today, nearly three years to the date of Silva’s death, is a vindication of a three-year campaign by the Silva family for justice, which brought national and international media attention to police brutality in Bakersfield. The County of Kern and Sheriff Donny Youngblood claimed that the deputies had done nothing wrong and that Silva had died of natural causes. Kern County detectives seized cellphone footage, which the Silva family alleges was deleted, in an effort to cover up Silva’s death. The Silva family has consistently maintained that Silva’s death was wrongful, especially since at the start of the encounter he was an unarmed hospital patient sleeping on the sidewalk, who was not a threat to anyone. 

The attorneys responsible for this victory are David K. Cohn and Neil K. Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, together with Los Angeles-based civil rights attorneys Dale K. Galipo (lead trial counsel) and Thomas C. Seabaugh. These attorneys represented four of Silva’s children, Silva’s mother Merri Silva, and his brother Chris Silva. They also represented Silva’s father Salvador Silva, who passed away while the case was pending.