BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Police responding to a “man with a gun” call in Bakersfield early Monday morning shot and killed a 73-year-old-man. The Bakersfield Police Department acknowledged he was unarmed.
The reporting party said the elderly man, whose family asserted he had early signs of dementia, was acting strangely AND armed with a revolver according to Assistant Police Chief Lyle Martin. Francisco Serna was shot after police said he failed to respond to orders to stop approaching, and remove his hands from his jacket.
Seven officers responded to the incident at about 12:30 a.m. Monday morning. Yet only one fired, according to this CNN report. The officer has been identified as Reagan Selman, who has been with the department since July 2015.
While no weapons were found near Serna’s body, police said a dark-colored wood crucifix was found on him. It is unknown if this item was misidentified as a weapon, or weather his medical condition played a role in this tragedy.
The people who called the police Monday morning lived across the street from Serna. A woman told detectives she was dropped off at home about 12:35 a.m. when a man approached her in her driveway. He asked where she lived.
USA Today reported the neighbor told police that Serna “began questioning her about living in the neighborhood and demanded she open the car door so he could look inside.”
The neighbor told police she saw “a dark brown or black handled object that she believed was a gun” inside Serna’s jacket.
The neighbor’s friend unlocked her car door and Serna began looking inside. At that point, the neighbor ran to her house and told her husband to call the police because there was a man outside with a gun, police said.
Her husband told a 911 dispatcher the man had a revolver and had brandished the weapon at the women outside.
Police arrived six minutes later and when the woman saw Serna come out of his house, she said, “That’s him,” according to the police statement.
When Serna came across the street and did not respond as Selman apparently thought he should have, he fired.
Martin, who becomes chief today, confirmed no other force options were used, nor did other officers fire. He said about 20-30 seconds elapsed between the neighbor saying, “that’s him,” and the first shot. After she identified the man as having a weapon, officers were taking cover and giving commands.
The Serna family said the police knew the man had dementia, but Martin said he did not know. Apparently the reporting party living across the street was unaware of his condition as well. It is unknown what the responding officers knew.
CNN reported that an audio recording was obtained by KERO. In the recording a dispatcher can be heard saying that Serna was “reported as to having dementia.” However, the context and timing of this statement is unclear.
The Bakersfield Police Department Critical Incident Review Board is investigating what took place, police said.