Charlie P. Garcia: Sheriff Donny Youngblood Deserves to Be in Jail

2004 Getty Images

 (2004 Getty Images)

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is a disgrace to all the good men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform. 

I believe he is criminally negligent, by his total failure of leadership, in the brutal deaths of Jose Lucero and David Silva.

Four Kern County, Calif. sheriff deputies went to Jose Lucero’s home on December 18, 2010, in response to repeated 911 calls from Jose claiming that a female friend was being assaulted in Lancaster.  

Jose, a recovering drug addict who struggled with mental health issues, was living at the home of his elderly parents, Florencio and Lilia Lucero. Prior to that day, reports indicated he was on the road to recovery, but on that day he had relapsed. 

The deputies decided to take Jose Lucero into custody for abuse of the 911 system, and his elderly parents witnessed the entire incident.

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How did four deputies take down this unarmed man?

Step one, pepper spray.

Pepper spray causes intense pain, involuntary closing of the eyes, considerable tearing, as well as temporary paralysis of the larynx which causes subjects to lose their breath. 

Step two, Taser guns.

The Taser X26 used by the Kern County deputies deliver a 50,000 volt charge. Compressed nitrogen propels a pair of “probes”—aluminum darts tipped with stainless steel barbs connected to the X26 by insulated wires—at a rate of over 160 feet per second. Removal of the barbed probes requires hospitalization so that a doctor can remove them with a scalpel.

Ruben Ceballos awoke around midnight to sharp cracks and piercing screams. The 19-year-old rushed to the kitchen door and saw Kern County sheriff’s deputies beating David Silva in the head as he lay still on the ground. 

- Charlie P. Garcia

The manufacturer maintains that the full 50,000 volts do not enter the victim’s body; rather, it claims the X26 only delivers a peak voltage of 1,200 volts into the body, and an average current of 2.1 milliamps for 5 seconds. As a comparison, the electric chair administers 2,450 volts at about 5 amps for 20 seconds. 

When the deputies became violent, Jose hid behind his father for protection, but the police ordered Florencio Lucero to step away, making Jose an easy target for two of the deputies to shoot Jose with their Taser guns. 

The impact is as powerful as it is swift. The electrical impulse from a Taser instantly overrides the victim’s central nervous system, paralyzing the muscles and rendering the target limp and helpless. Once the steel barbs are lodged on the body, the officer can deliver continued electricity by pulling the device’s trigger again. For safety reasons, most police department policies recommend no more than four jolts with a Taser.  

The following video shows a dozen police officers in training being shot -- just once -- with a Taser gun during a training session. Note that the barbs did not enter their skin but pierced a vest on their back.

This training video shows the painful result of just one Taser blow, even when the victim is held in the protective grasp of two colleagues. 

In November 2007, the UN Committee Against Torture released a statement saying “use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constitutes a form of torture, and… in certain cases, it could also cause death.”

Jose Lucero, who was unarmed, was electrocuted with the Taser 29 times. Yes, 29 times. At 5 seconds per Taser, that is a total electrocution time of 2 minutes and 25 seconds!  What kind of sick person would do that to another human being?

And if you think it couldn’t possibly get worse, step three – steel pipes.

The typical police baton is simply a steel pipe, the use of which can have lethal consequences. Like brass knuckles, it can crack your head open, break your bones, and cause permanent injury to your bodily organs.  

The four deputies pummeled Jose mercilessly  with their batons 33 times which, coincidentally, is the number of times Rodney King was clubbed by the L.A.P.D.

These four thugs certainly have nothing on the most heinous torturers of our times. 

Jose’s horrified parents awaited the impartial results from the coroner’s office on the cause of death. 

Imagine their surprise when the official cause of death was cardiac arrest following police restraint in association with methamphetamine intoxication. 

But now get this. Who do you think is the Kern County Coroner?  

That’s right, Sheriff – Coroner – Public Administrator Donny Youngblood. All three positions were consolidated in 1995 by the Board of Supervisors. 

Coroner Youngblood decides the cause of death of the innocent victims who die while in the police custody of Sheriff Youngblood. Nice. It’s like Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde coming to life in Kern County.

And for a judge and jury, this was just too ridiculous a lie to swallow.  

In November 2012, after three and a half weeks of trial and five hours of deliberation, a unanimous jury found that the County of Kern, the Kern County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Ryan Greer, Deputy Daniel Willis, Deputy Angelo Gonzalez and Deputy Jonathan Juden were liable for wrongful death, and negligent infliction of emotional distress resulting in an award of $4.5 million in total damages to Florencio and Lilia Lucero.

Sheriff/Coroner Youngblood maintains the four deputies did nothing wrong, and instead of excising this malignant tumor from the police force by filing criminal charges against these savages, he allows the cancer of police brutality to metastasize into the culture of the sheriff’s office by doing nothing.

And that’s how, through Sheriff Youngblood’s incompetence, on the night of May 7, 2013, serial killer Ryan Greer came to meet David Sal Silva, the 33-year-old father of four young girls. 

Ruben Ceballos awoke around midnight to sharp cracks and piercing screams. The 19-year-old rushed to the kitchen door and saw Kern County sheriff’s deputies beating David Silva in the head as he lay still on the ground. 

“I saw two sheriff’s deputies on top of this guy, just beating him,” Ceballos said. “He was screaming in pain … asking for help. He was incapable of fighting back — he was outnumbered, on the ground. They just beat him up.”

And then there’s 34-year-old Salina Quair who was just leaving the Kern Medical Center, and saw David die. It turns out that David had sought help at the medical center, but a security guard asked him to leave. David barely made it across the street before passing out.

Ironically, Salina called the police on the police.

In the chilling 911 call she said, "There's a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the sh** out of him and killed him," said Salina. "I have it all on video camera."

She continued shouting into the phone:

"I am sitting here on the corner of Flower and Palm right now and you have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Sheriffs. The guy was laying on the floor and eight Sheriff's ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now."

My favorite witness is Jason Land who was so upset he told his story to a local news station saying the police acted like “animals” when they brutally beat David to death right in front of him. A few hours later, police arrested him and charged him with being on PCP. Jason said this was completely untrue, and the deputies tried to coerce him to change his story.

Other witnesses said the first deputy to arrive found David passed out on the ground and gave him a knuckle rub on the chest, ordering him to wake up. David got up on his knees, but being intoxicated he passed out again. Not following police orders somehow became “resisting arrest” and the deputy called for backup. 

The backup to help him with this passed out unresponsive man was a K-9 German Shepherd police dog released from his car in the attack mode that ferociously sunk his sharp teeth into David’s flesh, who was only wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. 

The autopsy revealed deep bites on his legs, arms, hands and torso. Even for days after the attack you could see David’s blood all over the ground.

This unprovoked attack by a vicious animal finally did awake David because he began to fight for his life by trying to choke the dog before it killed him. And that’s when the eight other officers arrived to savagely kick him and beat him over the face, head, neck and body with their bone crushing steel batons.

Silva's uncle described what he saw after seeing his nephew's body at the coroner's office. "Bruised up face, chin, ear, busted lip, broken nose, black eye, all marks all over his face," he explained.

The cover up began immediately after the crime. 

At 2 a.m. deputies began knocking on witnesses’ doors, detaining them for hours and demanding they turn over the footage on their cellphones. Is anyone really surprised that the most incriminating videos are missing from the mobile phones when they were finally returned?

Sheriff Youngblood maintains Silva's "arrest" was handled in accordance with department policy. Coroner Youngblood declared David Silva's death as "accidental" with the official cause of death listed as "cardiac hypertension."

These absurd conclusions are no more believable then those made when Jose Lucero was tortured to death.  

Sheriff Donny Youngblood should be fired immediately and criminally prosecuted.

Charles Garcia, CEO of Garcia Trujillo Holdings, has served in the administration of four presidents. He is the best-selling author of two leadership books and was named in the book "Hispanics in the USA: Making History" as one of 14 Hispanic role models for the nation books. Follow him on Twitter: @charlespgarcia.

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