Yesterday, attorney David Cohn, who represents the family of David Sal Silva, announced the the filing of several federal civil rights claims “against the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, six sheriff’s deputies and a sergeant, two California Highway Patrol officers, the county and the state alleging excessive police force killed [Silva],” according to local reports.
Cohn gave a 22-minute press conference detailing the lawsuits that were filed yesterday. One of the main points he emphasized repeatedly was that the family was “trying to change the culture” of Kern County officers. Silva died in-custody on May 8 in Bakersfield. David’s father, Sal Silva, said last month on Los Angeles radio that the Kern County Sheriff’s department murdered his son. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who is also the Kern County Coroner, ruled that the death was “accidental” and that Silva died from heart failure, even though video showed law enforcement officials allegedly beating Silva on the floor with batons.
You can read two of the full claims here. The first one is the claim against the state of California.
This claim is the one against Kern County.
Cohn said that he hoped the filing of the claim — which is a required step before filing a lawsuit — would serve as a catalyst for serious change among local law enforcement agencies.
Government agencies often deny such claims, after which time plaintiffs then file their lawsuit.
The Silva family seeks damages “in excess of $10,000,” according to the claim against the county of Kern. The state claim is a “non-limited civil case over $25,000.”
“No amount of money is going to bring David back,” Cohn said at Friday’s news conference. “It’s the family’s desire to bring out all the facts in this case. It’s really the family’s desire to change the culture and the behavior of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.”
The department needs to change its “strike-first, ask-questions-later” culture, Cohn said.
The Sheriff’s Office referred calls seeking comment to the Kern County Counsel’s office. Mark Nations, chief deputy county counsel for litigation, said the claim was inappropriate in light of the coroner’s report.
“(Silva) essentially had cardiac arrest because of the amount of exertion he was putting into resisting the police,” Nations said. “Based on the information I have, I think law enforcement handled the situation as best they could under the circumstances.”
The California Highway Patrol did not respond to a request for comment.