Tuesday night in Bakersfield, California, family and friends held a vigil for 73-year-old Francisco Serna, who on Monday was shot and killed by police.
Serna’s death received national attention after a public Facebook video by one of his sons was posted Monday. According to initial reports, Serna was unarmed and his family said that he suffered from dementia and would take walks at night. The family also said that Serna “may have been waving a wooden crucifix that was mistaken for a weapon,” TIME reported. Serna’s son Roy Serna also said that his father was shot nine times.
According to local reports, Francisco Serna and his wife Rubia were married for 52 years and had five children. They have 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
During the vigil, the Serna family released a statement, which was read by Cyndi Imperial, a friend of the Sernas:
“Our dad was murdered by BPD at approximately 12:38 am December 12,” part of the statement read. “Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel he was left to die alone, without his family by his side. Our family was questioned and restricted from comforting our mother for about 14 hours, while BPD completed their investigation. Family who asked to see their mother was told by BPD that if they crossed the police line they would be arrested.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Bakersfield police identified officer Reagan Selman as the person who shot Serna. The police department’s new police chief Lyle Martin said that they had received a 911 call saying that a man had a gun and was accosting people.
Here is what Bakersfield Now reported about Martin’s press conference:
“Mister Serna began walking across the street while officers are yelling commands at him to take his hands out of his jacket and to stop,” said Martin.
Police add Serna failed to obey police commands and kept approaching. When he was about 15-20 feet away from officer Reagan Selman, the officer fired seven rounds at Serna who fell to the ground and died at the scene. It’s not known how many times Serna was hit.
Martin said Serna was not armed and police have not recovered any weapon. Police found Serna was carrying a dark colored simulated wooden crucifix. Eyewitness News asked Martin if Serna lunged at officers or threaten them?
“Nothing that I’ve been told up to this point and nothing in the investigation up to this point indicates a lunging or threatening of that nature,” said Martin.
Police say they were acting on reports that Serna had a gun, had his hands in his jacket and was acting strangely.
“You’re being told that there’s a man with a revolver whose got his hands inside his jacket and lo and behold, when you’re confronted with it, there’s a man coming towards you with his hands in his jacket,” said Martin.
A total of seven officers were on scene, but just one officer fired his weapon. Martin said that’s something the investigation will take into account.
Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, is “where law enforcement officers have this year killed more people relative to the population than in any other American county,” according to a 2015 report from The Guardian.