Residents of Bakersfield, California, are demanding answers after police shot and killed an elderly, unarmed, mentally disturbed man while responding to a call early Monday morning.
Seventy-three-year-old Francisco Serna was pronounced dead near his Bakersfield home at approximately 1:15 AM on Monday, according to a coroner’s report obtained by CBS News. Serna was shot by an as-of-now unidentified Bakersfield police officer who had been called to the area at around 12:30 AM, over reports of a man waving a handgun. According to the Los Angeles Times, when officers arrived, witnesses pointed toward Serna, who was standing in a neighbor’s driveway.
“At some point during that contact an officer fired several rounds striking the individual,” BPD Spokesperson, Sgt. Gary Carruesco, told local station KBAK. A short time later, Serna was dead. Police did not uncover any firearms on Serna, nor in his home or cars.
According to KBAK, Serna lived in Bakersfield with his wife, and one daughter. Another son reportedly lived several blocks away. His family told the station that Serna had begun displaying indicators of early-stage dementia since last year, with those symptoms noticeably increasing over recent months. He would also reportedly go on nighttime walks to help fight insomnia. Family members also told CBS News that police had been to Serna’s home twice before, after Francisco had triggered a medical alarm. It is unclear whether Serna was involved in the initial incident which prompted the police’s dispatch to the neighborhood.
“My dad did not own a gun. He was a 73-year-old retired grandpa, just living life,” Serna’s son Rogelio Serna told the LA Times. “He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.”
Bakersfield police have not identified the officer who fired on Serna. However, Sgt. Carruesco confirmed to the LA Times that the officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Serna’s killing comes just months after the police killings of two other men who were each reportedly suffering from mental illness. In late September, Reginald Thomas, a father of four with bipolar disorder, died during an altercation with Pasadena police attempting to enter his apartment. And in October, Ugandan immigrant Alfred Olango was shot and killed in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon by officers responding to reports of an individual “not acting like himself.”
In both instances, the deaths were followed by outcries for better police training and preparation to deal with individuals suffering from mental health issues.
According to KBAK, a police investigation into Serna’s death is underway. A candlelight vigil is reportedly planned for Tuesday evening, outside of his home.