Ever since Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood held a press conference on Thursday to tell the world that the in-custody death of 33-year-old David Silva was ruled “accidental” and that the father of four died of a heart attack and did not die from baton blows at the hands of Kern County and California Highway Patrol officers, questions and outrage about Youngblood’s conference emerged almost immediately.
The most vocal critic of Youngblood’s conference and the autopsy report he shared has been Sal Silva, David’s father, whose 15-minute interview with KPFK’s Michael Slate out of Los Angeles on Friday, accused the officers of murdering his son and Youngblood of being “an accomplice to murder.”
Silva family attorney David Cohn also reacted to Youngblood when he told The Bakersfield Californian the following, “They’re trying to say he died of natural causes. Who would believe that?” According to reports, Cohn will be “sending a copy of the autopsy to an out-of-state expert, someone who can comb through it and come back with an independent analysis.”
Cohn also told the newspaper, “So far we’ve received a one-sided version from the sheriff’s department,” Cohn said. “I want to hear from someone else.”
It looks like Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green has begun to listen. On Friday, the day after Youngblood’s conference, The Californian reported that “[Green's] office will conduct an independent review into the death of David Sal Silva once the sheriff’s department and FBI have finished their investigations.”
The story continues:
Green said she’s requested materials relevant to the case from the sheriff’s department, and is also going to wait for evidence from the FBI and her office will then examine everything. She said it’s likely it will be a lengthy process.
The decision to conduct the review was made prior to Sheriff Donny Youngblood’s offer to her to conduct an investigation, Green said. She said the public doesn’t have a lot of information regarding what happened, and she said she thinks citizens “look to the DA’s office in order to get the information and reach a just result.”
Green made her decision public a day after a news conference in which Youngblood defended his deputies’ actions in restraining Silva, and released details from the pathologist’s report that Silva was drunk and on three different drugs when he died.
Meanwhile not everyone in Bakersfield is criticizing the sheriff, who said Thursday that the media’s actions about this case have been “shameful” and that they have been spreading “propaganda” about the story. Local Bakersfield talk show host Inga Barks wrote an opinion piece basically agreeing with Youngblood’s assessment of the media:
I guess the writers don’t listen to much talk radio or read the news blogs! What exactly did the L.A. Times expect us to do before the facts were out? Take to the streets like they do in their neck of the woods? Throw molotov cocktails into the Sheriff’s Office, just to find out later that the police didn’t kill the guy?
Even if you don’t believe the sheriff’s report, even if you believe there are still questions to be answered, what do these outsiders want you to do? It’s almost as if the media wanted to incite something, isn’t it? As if they hoped to create discord and distrust between our community and our officers. For what? So they would have more to write about?
Look, the last few years have definitely brought about a changes in my naive assumption that the cops are always right. I’ve seen too much.
But I’ve also given up any notion that modern journalism is unbiased and motivated by truth. That’s not to say there aren’t good and responsible writers out there, nor that sometimes good journalists just get it wrong.
But in this case, in creating a reality that didn’t exist, these reporting agencies fractured the people’s trust in their law enforcement, put deputies at risk due to multiple death threats, and painted our community in a false light.