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California police kill unarmed man, 73, who they thought had gun

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Rubia Serna was consoled by her sons Jesse, right, and Frank at the candlelight vigil for Francisco Serna, 73, her husband and their father, Tuesday, in Bakersfield, Calif.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A crowd of about 150 people attended a candlelight vigil for Francisco Serna, 73, Tuesday, in Bakersfield, Calif. Serna was shot and killed by a Bakersfield, Calif., police officer near his home early Monday morning.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Activist Dolores Huerta, center, spoke at a candlelight vigil for Francisco Serna, 73, Tuesday, in Bakersfield, Calif. From right are Serna’s son Frank Serna, wife Rubia Serna and son Roy Serna. Serna was shot and killed by a Bakersfield, Calif., police officer near his home early Monday.

LOS ANGELES >> An unarmed 73-year-old man refused to take his hand out of his pocket and stop walking toward officers who believed he had a gun when they fatally shot him, the incoming police chief of Bakersfield, California, said.

Two different people who encountered Francisco Serna in the hours leading up to the shooting had believed he had a gun, and police were answering a 911 call of a man with a revolver, incoming Chief Lyle Martin said at a news conference Tuesday.

Officer Reagan Selman, who had been on the force about 16 months, fired seven shots at Serna as he walked toward them in a neighbor’s driveway early Monday, said Martin.

Serna was declared dead at the scene, and no gun was found on him. Martin could not say how many of the seven shots had hit him. Martin says 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 walked toward them, Martin said. Serna refused to remove his hand from his jacket pocket and to stop walking toward the officers despite many commands, Martin said.

Serna’s family said he has dementia.

Earlier at about 4 p.m. on Sunday, another neighbor had encountered Serna, whose 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.” 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. She and a friend she was with ran into the house and she told her boyfriend, who called police and said a man in the driveway had a revolver and was brandishing it at women, Martin said.

Serna and his partner were first to arrive, followed by the other five officers.

They had been interviewing the woman for a few minutes when Serna walked out of the house and she pointed him out, leading to the shooting.

Martin said it was an extremely difficult set of circumstances for an officer fearing a man with a gun and a terrible situation for all involved. “This is a tragic incident for their family, the community as a whole, and the police department,” he said.

All the officers who were there have been placed on routine administrative leave.

A group was gathered outside the family home late Tuesday, with one person holding a sign that read “Justice for Francisco Serna.” A candlelight vigil was held in his honor.

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.

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  • This is a sad tragedy. But I must say because of BLM, cops are more worried of their own lives because of the “Pigs in a Blanket, Fry em like Bacon” theme.

  • Seven shots is excessive. One shot to wound the person should be sufficient. And what if a bystander was struck? Just write it off as collateral damage?

    • The people of Bakersfield should feel fortunate. If this was an HPD officer, one of the six shots would’ve hit the guy in the knee, and the other six would’ve whacked five different houses and probably a kid skateboarding a couple streets over.

      • Well the cop had a whooping 16 months on the job. Let’s see, 6 months california cop training, 4 months ride along. Was the jr. Cop the only one shooting? NO ONE EVER SAW A GUN,? HUH.

        • The officer was done with FTO, so she was fully trained and qualified. It doesn’t matter if the officer had 16 moths or 16 years on the job. The greater majority of officers go their entire career without a “lethal force” encounter. It’s all part of the job and it could happen. What’s important is if the officer followed the proper procedures and used the correct level of force in an appropriate manner. If the facts of the article are accurate, the officer will probably be cleared and will be back on the job.

        • You should stick with cheerleading for the rail, Krook Caldwell or Obama, because you don’t tend to follow normal conversations well.

          I trained quite extensively in firearms tactics on the mainland and quite often with officers from a number of agencies on the West Coast. Particularly with teams from from more well-funded areas (like Bakersfield), the officers and their abilities were extremely impressive.

          HPD, on the other hand, has some of the most shamefully lacking standards and qualification requirements I have ever heard of, and this is the reason they are 1) considered a joke by most mainland and federal agencies, and 2) you repeatedly see instances of officer-involved shootings where lack of training and lack of ability lead to wild shot-placement, shot count and collateral damage.

          If some perp were trying to break into my house, of course I would be grateful for HPD’s assistance in tackling the crack-head, restraining him, cuffing him and chucking him in the squad car; but if that perp had already broken in and it was now time for some legally and ethically sound pistol work, I’d rather take my chances with my .45acp than have any HPD officer slinging lead anywhere within a mile of myself or my family. Much, much safer.

        • Once again, this could have been avoided had the guy complied with LE’s orders to stop, and remove his hands slowly.

    • Deadly force should not be used to “wound” a threat. In the face of “deadly force”, the same should be used to “stop” the threat. A “wounded” person can still get off a few shots. A tragic situation, however I find it difficult to find fault with the responding officers. The individual refused to show his hands and it would be reasonable to believe, given the circumstances, that the individual was “armed”.

    • You are clueless as to law enforcement protocol when it comes to the use of deadly force. But, do continue your Saturday morning arm chair quarterbacking. It’s good for a laugh.

      • True carang, youtare trained west coast officers but condemn HPD. Problem is they trigger happy paranoid bunch of Lil boys there. The old man had a crucifix he was holding. Geez. People like youtare will wait a lifetime for a break in to play the John Wayne hero. Doomsday people waiting for a reason to shoot.

    • The other responses are quite accurate here. You obviously have no clue as to LE (or even civilian) protocol when using deadly force. It’s called “DEADLY force” for a reason. When you pull that trigger, you are NOT doing it to “wound” someone.

      Take a beginner class on self-defense or rules of engagement in defensive firearms use and things will make sense. Of course, do that in a state that actually observes our Second Amendments rights.

      That means NOT in Hawaii.

      • Youtare should move to a State where he can have a big ole firearm between his legs. He will feel better about himself. Why would he want to live in Aloha State. He only criticizes government and HPD? GO back.

    • When you shoot, you are shooting to kill.

      One shot is not enough. The person is still walking towards you. Everything happens so fast. You have to make sure the threat is neutralized.

      That’s why in police shootings, the police usually shoot way more than one round.

  • WHEW!! Thank the lucky stars he wasn’t of a certain skin color, or there’d be protest marches, riots and cops being shot at in Bakersfield. And of course, from Emperor Soetoro: “If I had a senile uncle, he would look like Francisco.”

    One more month till this is America again.

    • We are ALL of a certain skin color. What IS unfortunate is we have to come up with a “Black Lives Matter” which propels the divide our country is going thru.
      As for the fault, too much emphasis is placed on Barry. I disagree. It is the culmination of many factors to include; social media and it’s role that plays on our paranoia, disparity of income, and yes race. There are other factors as well, but, BLM only makes matters worse.
      Can’t we come up with a more positive revolution and say, “ALL LIVES MATTER”.

      • bumbai,

        Google “action always beats reaction” for all you need to know. If you find it hard to believe, go ahead and attempt the old trick of trying to catch a falling dollar bill between your fingers when a confederate drops it without warning. Back in Berkeley, I objectively scored in the 99.9 percentile in human reaction time and even I cannot do it.

        Real life is not a 1950s Western TV “oater.”

  • A tragic accident! Let peace and beautiful memories of the deceased prevails among the people and his family. Let the error of judgment given food for thought and the results be forgiveness and understanding! How else will Peace on Earth be found unless love and kindness come through this unfortunate tragedy! Let’s all be calm and let the brightness of our love shines forth toward peace to all! God bless!

  • “Martin says an object was recovered that may have been what the woman mistook for a gun, but he said it was difficult to describe”

    It was a crucifix. Let’s see now, how in the world to characterize that?

    • Before 1930, all shooting with 50 bullet holes were justified. Times are changing. Before “Shoot first,ask questions later”took effect. In a shoot happy community, wear clothes with no pockets. Carry your ID taped to your forehead. Oh,well they would shoot you for looking stupid.

  • I was stopped by a group of policemen years ago and asked for ID. Being a dutiful, compliant citizen, I quickly reached into my pants pocket for my wallet. ALL of them flinched, forgetting they had asked me for identification. From that day on, whenever asked for ID, I reiterate their command and let them know I’m reaching for my wallet in my pocket. Then I slowly reach for my wallet. I’ll never forget that incident.

    • That reminds me of the funny morning I drove into Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station (K-Bay). For whatever reason, I was commanded by the guard at the guard shack to “keep both hands on the steering wheel” AND to “present your ID.” Being alone in the vehicle and feeling a wee bit insubordinate, I responded with, “And just how do I go about that sir? I can’t reach my wallet with my toes.” To this day I don’t know if the guy saw the humor in the situation HE created, but I obviously lived to tell the tale.

      And no, I don’t typically recommend provoking somebody with a loaded gun. He might well be a poorly trained and steroid-doped somebody with a loaded gun.

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