Home / National News / Authorities Probe Fatal Police Shooting of Unarmed 73-Year-Old Suffering From Dementia

 

(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) — Authorities in Bakersfield, California, continue to investigate Monday’s early morning shooting death of an unarmed 73-year-old man, who his family says was suffering from the early stages of dementia.

In a news release, police said that around 12:38 a.m. Monday, its department got a 911 call of an “adult male brandishing a handgun” on Silver Birch Avenue.

“When officers arrived, a witness directed officers to the man, who was in the driveway of a nearby residence. During the contact, one officer fired several rounds, striking the subject. Medical aid was summoned; however, despite their efforts, the man was pronounced dead at the scene,” the news release said.

The man was later identified as Francisco Serna. He was shot dead by police just feet from his front door, in a neighbor’s driveway, minutes later around 12:49 a.m.

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco did not say how many rounds were fired. He also said he did not know whether officers had time to use other “force options.” ABC News learned that at least seven shots were fired.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Carruesco said officers were not wearing body cameras and there was no dashcam footage. Six other officers were present during the shooting.

Mable Jones, a neighbor, told ABC News that Serna was known in the community.

“Normally, if you come outside, he comes outside. … He’s been here for like five, six years,” she said. “The nicest man in the world. He’s never came out late at night like that.”

It was Jones’ daughter who called 911 after Jones said Serna approached her and a friend as they sat in a car. Jones said her daughter, who did not know Serna, described him as acting strange and called 911 about a strange person who might be armed.

In the 911 audio, the dispatcher can be heard saying: “We have a poor phone connection but caller said someone is outside with a gun. … He came outside with a revolver and then returned inside his house.”

In the 911 audio, the dispatcher can be heard telling officers that Serna has been “reported as having dementia.”

“He’s in the road, with his hands in his pockets, not complying,” the officer says later in audio. “Subject still not complying.”

The Bakersfield Police Department confirmed Monday that no gun had been found. The officer involved in the shooting is on routine administrative leave, according to police, pending an investigation by the Critical Incident Review Board.

Laura Serna, Francisco Serna’s daughter, told ABC affiliate KERO-TV that he’d been struggling with early stages of dementia and that his medication made him paranoid.

She and her brothers, Frank and Roy, said they believed Bakersfield police knew about their father’s medical condition as well.

“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,” Laura Serna 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.”

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