Protesters gather outside the Kern County Superior Court building in Bakersfield… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)
BAKERSFIELD -- About a dozen people gathered in front of the Kern County Superior Court building Thursday morning to protest the death of David Sal Silva, the man who died less than hour after he was beaten by Kern County sheriff's deputies last week.
Standing near Kern County's replica Liberty Bell, some protesters wore masks and others held signs as their ranks slowly grew. Someone turned on a Bob Marley song mid-morning.
Chris Silva said he should be home with his family -- his brother's funeral is later in the day. But he felt he needed to be at the vigil. His biggest fear, he said, is that justice would not be served.
"I was just living in my own selfish bubble," Chris Silva said. "But since my brother died I've been doing my research and this has got to stop."
Witnesses and attorneys allege deputies brutally beat Silva even after he was motionless on the ground. Authorities later confiscated cellphone videos taken by witnesses, prompting accusations of a cover-up.
At the Sheriff Donny Youngblood's request, the FBI has also launched a probe into the matter. The deputies involved were placed on administrative leave.
David Silva's death is the latest high-profile accusation of brutality against the Kern County sheriff's office in recent years.
One resulted in the criminal convictions of three deputies and a $6-million civil judgment in the 2005 death of a jail inmate, according to attorneys. A second ended with a $4.5-million court award for the family of a man who died in 2010 after being struck 33 times with batons and shocked with a Taser 29 times, attorneys said.
One woman at Thursday's protest said it was her son's father, James Moore, who was killed in the 2005 incident.
"James should have been the end of it. It brought a lot of things to light," Alicia Moore said. "He should have been the last."
"They beat him for nothing," she continued. "Now they've done it to somebody else. But maybe this time there's hope. This time, there's video -- hopefully."
Youngblood said he called in the FBI after discovering that one of two phones seized from witnesses who said they contained video of the beating had no footage. The phones were returned to witnesses on Wednesday and one told The Times she feared some segments had been erased.
More analysis will determine whether footage might be missing from that phone.
Thursday's protest took place in front of a law enforcement memorial dedicated to "those who sacrificed for their fellow man."
"This memorial will stand as a tribute to the efforts of our law enforcement community and their dedication to protect and serve," it said.
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