Home / National News / Unarmed 73-Year-Old Man Shot by Police Was Carrying Crucifix, Authorities Say

 

(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 early-stage dementia.

In a news release, the Bakersfield Police Department said that around 12:38 a.m. Monday, it got a 911 call reporting an “adult male brandishing a handgun” on Silver Birch Avenue.

The BPD confirmed Monday that no gun was found. But police did recover a “dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix,” the department said. It said the man, Francisco Serna, had both hands in his jacket, refused police commands to remove them and continued to walk toward the officers.

“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.

He was shot just feet from his front door, in a neighbor’s driveway, at about 12:49 a.m.

Serna family spokeswoman Cyndi Imperial said that the family wants the Department of Justice to investigate and that the death was “difficult to accept.”

“It is difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so abruptly, brutally and with such excessive violence,” she 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,” the statement continued. “Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel that he was left to die alone without his family by his side.”

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco did not say how many rounds were fired. He 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.”

She said it was her daughter who called 911, after 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.” 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,” an officer says later in the audio. “Subject still not complying.”

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 was struggling with early-stage dementia and that his medication made him paranoid. She and her brothers Frank Serna and Roy Serna said they believed Bakersfield police knew about their father’s medical condition.

“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.”

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