BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – At the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive lays a small pile of flowers and photographs honoring David Silva, a 33-year-old father of four who died from what witnesses said was a severe beating by several police officers last week.
Next to the memorial, blood stains are still visible on the sidewalk, remnants from what witnesses said was a deadly beating law enforcement officers gave the 33-year-old father of four.
“My brother was a family man, a loving father and friend, a loving brother, very giving, caring all he wanted was to be a dad,” brother Chris Silva told Fox News Latino.
My brother was a family man, a loving father and friend, a loving brother, very giving, caring all he wanted was to be a dad
- Brother Chris Silva
Accusations of police brutality and covering up of evidence swirl surround the Kern County Sheriff's Department after officers seized cell phones witnesses they used to shoot video of the beating..
The attack has left this historic oil town in the Central Valley of California mired in uproar and controversy..
"It brings back memories of Rodney King. It's very sad. He was a working dad and is now dead. It just doesn't seem right, and I'd like to see justice for his family and kids," said Bakersfield resident Eric Jordan.
The east side of Bakersfield is an enclave packed with small Hispanic markets with signs in Spanish and where auto shops line the streets. The area is gang-ridden and is considered to be low income and poverty-stricken.
“Cops beat people up all around here all the time. This is nothing new,” said Bakersfield resident Jason, who did not want to disclose his last name.
The incident took place directly across the street from Kern Medical Center, the site where sheriff's deputies were based at the time they were asked to respond to a call of a possibly intoxicated man.
One grainy cell phone video recorded by a neighbor shows what is allegedly Kern County deputies beating Silva with batons. The department said officers took action after Silva resisted arrest.
But witnesses recount a different story and say they had filmed footage of up to nine deputies incessantly beating Silva with batons.
Sulina Quair was standing across the street next to the medical center when she saw a deputy pull up and then proceeded to shine a spotlight on Silva, who was sitting on a curb in front of a house, leaning up against a chain-link fence.
“We saw the cop run out of his car towards him and smacked him on the head with his night stick up to four to five times,” Quair said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “Cars were coming left and right and officers were getting out with their sticks and beating him,” she said.
Silva had reportedly reached the scene after getting into an argument at his girlfriend’s house. He first stopped by his parents’ house on the east side of the city and then walked to the medical center, apparently to check himself in for being emotionally unstable. He left the center after a security guard told him he couldn’t sleep there.
Silva ended up falling asleep in front of a house across the street where deputies then confronted him.
Quair called 911, telling the dispatcher she had video of up to eight officers attacking Silva.
“How could they do this to somebody who wasn’t doing anything and wasn’t resisting? They could have stopped,” Quair said.
Following the incident, the Kern County Sheriff’s department briefly detained two people who claimed to have footage of the incident. Police said the information taken from the phone was used solely for the investigation and no information was deleted.
Witnesses said that authorities intimidated and threatened them, telling them they couldn’t leave their houses until they turned over their phones to officers.
The coroner’s office is awaiting toxicology results to determine the cause of death, though these can take up to four months.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood announced in a press conference Tuesday that asked the FBI to conduct a "parallel" investigation and to examine the phones, since the Sheriff’s office determined only one of the phones contained video.
“I met with my staff yesterday afternoon and I made a determination to do something that’s unprecedented. I called the FBI and I asked the FBI, number one, to take the phones and see ... what’s on the phones, and number two, could something have been removed from these phones, and if so, can we show that something was removed,” Youngblood said.
The phones were then sent to FBI office in Sacramento. The federal agency then sent them back to the sheriff's department, which in turn dropped them off with the witnesses' lawyer.
David Cohn, attorney for the Silva family, said that since the beating took place, relatives began asking to bring an independent agency to review the case.
“Why have they fumbled around with the phones for four to five days?” Cohn asked. “Show the video to the public for transparency.”
Melissa Quair shot the video on her the phone and had a feeling that the video would be missing after police seized it.
“We all saw the video and even some officers, it’s sad that it’s no longer there,” she said.
John Tello, an attorney who represents the witnesses, said he has both cell phones in his custody.
"Both cell phones have been returned and we have to submit them for forensic examination," Tello said.
Sulina Quair, the witness who saw the incident from the beginning, said she hasn't been able to get the beating out of her mind.
"I can't sleep because I know he wanted help and I couldn't help him. I hear him begging, screaming for his life, pleading, and gargling blood," said Quair.