Law enforcement authorities in California beat a man to death with their batons before seizing at least two cell phones from witnesses who captured the incident on video.
One of the phones was seized without a warrant. The second phone was seized with a warrant but only because an attorney for the witnesses had arrived on the scene.
It doesn’t appear as if the lawyer had any sense to download the video before the phone was seized.
Or more likely, Kern County sheriff deputies would not allow it.
According to the Bakersfield Californian:
John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.
“When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies,” Tello said.
Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.
When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn’t take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said.
“This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed,” Tello said. “These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem.”
Deputies told the witnesses they could retrieve their phones the following day after the footage had been downloaded.
Now they’re telling the witnesses it could take years.
The law states that authorities can only seize your phone without a warrant under exigent circumstances, meaning there is probable cause the witness will destroy the video evidence. And they still would have to obtain a warrant or subpoena to view the footage.
But the law does not forbid citizens from downloading the footage before handing it over. A judge might be able to order a citizen from posting a video online but would have to provide a valid explanation as to why.
But despite what the law states, nothing will stop a group of cops from seizing your phone if it contains evidence of them violating the law.
And in this case, it appears as if they did just that as Kern County sheriff deputies and California Highway Patrol officers responded to a report of an intoxicated man standing in front of a local hospital, meaning there could possibly be video from surveillance cameras.
David Sal Silva, a 33-year-old father of four, died begging for his life, fighting up to nine law enforcement officers.
People who say they witnessed the incident as well as Silva’s family members described a scene in which deputies essentially were beating a helpless man to death. They were indignant that cellphone video had been taken away by deputies.
“My brother spent the last eight minutes of his life pleading, begging for his life,” said Christopher Silva, 31, brother of the dead man. He said he’s talked to witnesses but did not see the incident himself.
At about midnight, Ruben Ceballos, 19,was awakened by screams and loud banging noises outside his home. He said he ran to the left side of his house to find out who was causing the ruckus.
“When I got outside I saw two officers beating a man with batons and they were hitting his head so every time they would swing, I could hear the blows to his head,” Ceballos said.
Silva was on the ground screaming for help, but officers continued to beat him, Ceballos said.
After several minutes, Ceballos said, Silva stopped screaming and was no longer responsive.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office identified the officers involved as Sgt. Douglas Sword and deputies Ryan Greer, Tanner Miller, Jeffrey Kelly, Luis Almanza, Brian Brock and David Stephens. The CHP hasn’t identified its two officers involved in the incident.
Although there are several methods of being able to transmit video footage to a remote server while it is being recorded, they all come with certain drawbacks and are not always reliable.
That will one day no doubt change as technology keeps evolving, but one method to keep them from deleting your footage is to lock your phone with a password, but that still won’t keep them from taking your phone along with the footage, then claiming they lost the phone.
If you have any suggestions on how to save or store your footage in such a situation, please list them below in the comments section.