Mentally ill man dies of injuries suffered while in sheriff’s custody

SAN DIEGO – A family of a mentally ill man who died while in custody wants policy changes by San Diego law enforcement agencies.

The family addressed the death of 39-year-old Paul Silva Tuesday afternoon during a news conference.

San Diego police received a call February 20 from Silva's family regarding a mental health emergency. The family notified police of Silva's schizophrenic diagnosis, according to the family's lawyer, which would require authorities to take him to a designated medical facility under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.

“I was afraid something might happen to him since he was out at all hours of the night -- 1:30 in the morning, 3:30 in the morning. I thought that somebody might hurt him real bad or kill him so I called for his own safety for them to help me,” said Paul's mother, Leslie Silva.

The lawyer stated the police refused to follow policy and took Silva to the county jail.

“Instead of taking him to the mental health department to get his medication they took him to the county jail against his mother’s wishes,” said the Silva Family Attorney, James Frantz. "While in the Sheriff Department’s custody, County officers shot water balls at Paul Silva, tasered him multiple times, and forcibly crushed him to the ground. Medical tests would later show a collapsed lung was caused by the Sheriff’s excessive force. Over 36 hours after being brought into custody, after midnight on February 22, 2018, the County Sheriff took Paul to UCSD for medical treatment for apparent cardiac arrest and hypoglycemia."

Silva suffered permanent brain damage and other life-threatening injuries and was in a coma for several weeks before dying of his injuries, the lawyer stated.

"Mr. Silva was booked into custody on February 20, 2018. He was observed by staff in apparent medical distress on February 21, 2018 and was subsequently transported to the hospital for treatment.  On March 28, 2018, the Medical Examiner notified the department Mr. Silva had passed away. Major Crimes is investigating and CLERB was notified. Due to pending litigation, we cannot comment further," San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Karen Stubkjaer stated.

"The Silva family wants Paul's death to be the last of these tragic deaths in the San Diego County Jails and is committed to making sure local police practices are improved," the lawyer stated ahead of Tuesday's news conference.

"He’s missed so much. Paul Silva, I love you. I always will,” said Paul's father, Manuel.

“I’ll regret for the rest of my life calling them for help because I shouldn’t have. My son’s gone because I called them for help and they did not take care of him," said Leslie said.