LOS ANGELES (AP) – An unarmed 73-year-old man refused to take his hand out of his pocket and stop walking toward police who believed he had a gun when an officer fatally shot him in Southern California, police say.
Two people who encountered Francisco Serna in the hours leading up to the shooting in Bakersfield believed he was armed, and police were answering a 911 call reporting a man with a gun, incoming Bakersfield police Chief Lyle Martin said at a news conference Tuesday.
Meanwhile the family of Francisco Serna says he had dementia, and they are calling his death murder. They said they want an independent investigation and for the U.S. Justice Department to look into whether police violated Serna’s civil rights.
“It’s difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so brutally, abruptly and with such excessive violence,” according to a family statement. “Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel like he was left to die alone without his family by his side.”
Officer Reagan Selman, who had been on the force about 16 months, fired seven shots at Serna as he walked toward police in a neighbor’s driveway early Monday, Martin said.
Serna was declared dead at the scene, and the police department concluded he was not armed.
“This is a very tragic incident for their family, for this community as a whole and for the police department,” Martin said.
The officer was placed on routine administrative leave.
Martin could not say how many of the seven shots hit Serna. An object was recovered that may have been what the woman mistook for a gun, but he said it was difficult to describe and didn’t offer further details.
The shooting came about 20 to 30 seconds after a woman who had encountered Serna pointed him out to police as he walked out of his house across the street and toward them, Martin said. Serna refused to remove his hand from his jacket pocket and to stop walking toward the officers despite many commands, he said.
Earlier at about 4 p.m. on Sunday, Martin said another neighbor encountered Serna, saying his hand was in his jacket pocket as though he had a gun. Serna tried to force his way into the house of the neighbor, who called his behavior bizarre, Martin said.
Serna left, and the neighbor, who had recognized him, did not immediately report the incident.
Then about eight hours later, the woman who lives across the street from Serna was getting out of a car in her driveway when he came up behind her and asked her to get back into the car. The woman also saw Serna’s hand in his jacket pocket and thought he had a gun, Martin said.
The woman and a friend she was with ran into the house, and her boyfriend called police and said a man in the driveway had a revolver and was brandishing it at the women, Martin said.
Serna and his partner were first to arrive, followed by five other officers.
Serna’s son Rogelio Serna posted a video on Facebook about the shooting Tuesday. “Right across the street is where the police shot my father … and my dad was not armed,” Rogelio said in the video.
He wrote in another post that his father was in the early stages of dementia and would go on small walks when he had trouble sleeping. “Last night he took his last walk,” Serna wrote.Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.