Francisco Serna, a 73-year-old man from Bakersfield, California, who reportedly suffered from dementia, was shot and killed by local police officers after he was mistaken for an armed criminal. According to NBC News, the incident happened in the early hours of Monday morning after local police officers responded to a phone call that told them about an armed man waving a handgun.
According to family members of the the victim, on the day of the incident, Serna was watching late night TV with his wife of 51 years. When his wife moved out briefly to check on the laundry, Serna managed to sneak out of their home. It is still unclear as to what exactly happened in the time between Serna sneaking out of his home and being confronted by police officers. Serna’s wife, however, confirmed that before she could figure out where he might have gone, she rushed outside her home after hearing the sound of multiple gunshots. When she came out of her home, she was shocked to see police officers swarm around the limp body of her husband.
Francisco Serna was pronounced dead on the scene, the Kern County coroner said in a statement.
A day after Francisco Serna’s death, his family members are seeking answers from the Bakersfield Police Department. Laura Serna, 47, the daughter of the victim, called the killing an “unjustifiable” crime and said that her father was “murdered for no reason.”
“My dad was murdered, I believe, for no reason,” Laura told NBC News.
On Tuesday, authorities from the Bakersfield Police Department confirmed that Francisco Serna was not armed. They were not able to recover any weapon from him. The department is, however, yet to provide more details on the nature of the confrontation between Serna and responding police officers that eventually resulted in the elderly man’s death. A statement released by the Bakersfield Police Department read,
“During the contact, one officer fired several rounds, striking the subject.”
The statement also added that the officer who fired the shots has since then been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is completed. According to Sgt. Gary Carruesco, a police department spokesman, officers were responding to a report of a man “brandishing a handgun.”
Meanwhile, Time magazine has in a report hinted that Serna could have been waving a crucifix at the time of the incident, which could have been mistaken for a handgun by responding police officers. Laura Serna also confirmed to Time that Serna had recently begun carrying a 6-inch long crucifix with him and had a habit of waving it at people.
“There were moments where he thought he was going to die of old age. He was just carrying that around. I don’t know if it was like for his security. They could have mistaken that for a weapon.”
However, this bit about the crucifix has not been confirmed by any police officials as yet.
Family members mourning his death revealed that Francisco Serna was only recently diagnosed with dementia and that his health was taking a turn for the worse of late. Laura also revealed that Serna did occasionally become agitated and aggressive at times following his prognosis. However, he has never physically assaulted anyone.
“We had been taking him to the doctor almost two, three days a week this last month,” Laura Serna said. “I’m sure my dad was just scared to death because he had a little paranoia with the dementia,” she added.
Father to five children, Serna also had 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Other family members remember Francisco as a “very peaceful, fun-loving, joking kind of person.”
[Featured Image by Pixabay]