An autopsy report indicated that an unarmed 73-year-old man, Francisco Serna, in Bakersfield, California – who was struggling with dementia – was fatally shot five times by police, according to the ABC News.
At around 12:38 a.m., Monday, Bakersfield Police officials were dispatched to Silver Birch Avenue after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor about an “adult male brandishing a handgun.”
Upon arrival, police discovered the man outside and ordered him to take his hands out of his pocket and to stop walking toward them,” but he continued walking. As he entered his neighbor’s driveway, just 15 to 20 feet from police, Officer Reagan Selman opened fire.
It was reported that the officer shot at the man suffering from dementia seven times. An autopsy report revealed that he was shot five times, which killed him instantly despite emergency medical services’ effort to revive him.
Lyle Martin, who is the Bakersfield police chief, stated that at the time of the shooting, police were unable to describe the object Serna was holding in his pocket. It was later uncovered that it was not a gun, but a dark colored simulated wood grain crucifix.
“We thought we were dealing with an armed subject,” said Martin.
During an interview, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco stated that it was not immediately made clear if responding officers had any other options as no one was wearing body cameras.
He went on to say that “I know the officer, at the time, the last thing that he was told was that person that was advancing toward him was in possession of a gun. So the ignoring of the command to stop and the advancing on the officer, you know, things can happen very fast.”
“It doesn’t take but a split second to remove a firearm and fire on people. It’s a very unfortunate event. It’s tragic for everybody involved.”
According to a family spokesperson, the family is having difficulties accepting Serna’s death and wants the Department of Justice to investigate.
“It is difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so abruptly, brutally and with such excessive violence,” the spokesperson said, reading a statement from the family. “We feel our dad was stolen from us at a time that our family should be celebrating the holidays, birthdays and making more family happy memories.”
“Our dad was murdered by BPD. Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel that he was left to die alone without his family by his side.”
The victim’s daughter, Laura Serna, told reporters that he was taking medication that would often make him paranoid.
“My father’s never owned a gun, so that was good to hear that the police finally came out and said there was no gun found… That’s good news, but I think there’s far more work to be done here,” she said. “In a matter of a 15-to-20-minute window, he was shot dead. Enough is enough. BPD murdered my father for no reason. They need to be held accountable.”
Cyndy Imperial spoke at the vigil, where more than 100 people gathered outside the victim’s home, stating: “Our dad was treated like a criminal and we feel he was left to die alone, without his family by his side.”
Neighbors were also stunned after learning Serna had been shot and killed by police. Mable Jones said: “Normally if you come outside, he comes outside. He’s been in the neighborhood for, like, five, six years. The nicest man in the world. He’s never come out late at night like that.”
The officer involved in the fatal shooting is on administrative leave pending an investigation.
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