A 26-year-old rookie has been identified as the police officer who fatally shot an elderly man suffering from dementia early Monday morning in California.
Officers responded to the 7900 block of Silver Birch Avenue about 12:35 a.m. Monday for a report of a man “brandishing a handgun,” Bakersfield Police Sergeant Gary Carruesco told the Los Angeles Times.
“My dad did not own a gun. He was a 73-year-old retired grandpa, just living life,” Rogelio Serna told the Times. “He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Serna Was Possibly Holding a Crucifix When He Was Shot, His Daughter Says
Police responded to Silver Birch Avenue about 12:35 a.m. Monday for a report of a man brandishing a handgun, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A witness pointed the arriving officers to a man, later identified as Francisco Serna, in the driveway of a home, Carruesco said. Officer Reagan Selman fired several shots at him. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Selman was about 15 to 20 feet away from Serna when he shot him seven times, police said.
Carruesco said investigators have not found a gun, or any other weapons, at the scene.
“During a search of Mr. Serna a dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix was recovered,” police said in a statement. “Mr. Serna was not armed at the time of the shooting. No firearm has been recovered.”
Serna’s daughter, Laura Serna, told Time that her father had recently started carrying a 6-inch wooden crucifix and that may have been mistaken for a weapon.
Laura Serna said her father sometimes waved the crucifix at people.
“There were moments where he thought he was going to die of old age,” Laura Serna told Time. “He was just carrying that around. I don’t know if it was like for his security. They could have mistaken that for a weapon.”
Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin said at a press conference Selman and his partner were the first officers on the scene. Martin said Serna refused to take his hand out of his jacket pocket and stopped moving, and that is when he was shot by Selman. About 10 minutes passed from the time of the 911 call to the shooting, but only 20 to 30 seconds passed from when the officers arrived to when the shooting occurred.
Martin said the caller told the officers “‘That’s him!'” and then 20 seconds passed when shots were fired.
“They’re being told he had a handgun and ‘that’s him.’ It’s kind of tough to address that in 20 seconds,” Martin said.
Police said Serna did not make any threatening moves toward the officers and no less-than-lethal force attempts were made prior to the shooting.
Francisco Serna’s son, Rogelio, told the Los Angeles Times that his father has been showing signs of dementia since 2015, and the symptoms, including delusions, have been getting worse recently.
Rogelio Serna said on Facebook his father often had trouble sleeping and would take “small walks to cope and make himself tired.”
Serna’s son wrote, “Well around 12:30 a.m. Monday morning … He took his last walk and was killed in a 15 (minute) window frame (right) across the street from his home.”
Rogelio Serna told The Times that Bakersfield Police had been called to his father’s home twice in the past after Francisco Serna became confused and activated a medical alarm.
2. He Was Promoted to Police Officer From Trainee in February
Reagan Selman joined the police department 16 months ago, NBC Los Angeles reports.
According to the Bakersfield city website, he was promoted from trainee to full police officer in February 2016.
About the shooting, Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin told reporters it was a “difficult set of circumstance for an officer fearing a man with a gun,” NBC Los Angeles reports.
“This is a tragic incident for their family, the community as a whole, and the police department,” Martin said.
3. Selman Served in the Marines Corps & Left as a Sergeant
Selman served in the Marine Corps and left as a sergeant, according to his Facebook page. It is not known when he left. He is originally from Texas.
A Marines website shows Selman at Camp Moussa in Djibouti, Africa, in 2011 while with Assault Section, Weapons Platoon, Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit(MEU). He and other Marines were there to train local forces.
4. Serna Was a Retired Father & Grandfather Who Moved to Bakersfield to be Closer to His Children
Francisco Serna is survived by his wife, his five children, his grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, his son told the Los Angeles Times.
He was retired from his job working at a cotton gin in McFarland, California, and moved to Bakersfield with his wife about eight years ago to be closer to his children, Rogelio Serna told the newspaper.
5. Selman Has Been Placed on Paid Leave While the Shooting Is Investigated
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing by the police department’s critical review board, police said. Selman has been placed on paid administrative leave, the Bakersfield Police Department said.
Bakersfield, California, is located in Kern County, which a report from the Guardian found to have the most fatal police shootings per capita in the United States.
In 2015, there were 14 people killed by police in the county, which has a population of about 875,000, according to the Guardian’s report. In New York City’s five counties, home to about 10 times the amount of people, there were 10 fatal police shootings, the Guardian reported.
Serna was the fifth person to be killed by police in Kern County in 2016, according to The Counted, the Guardian’s project to track police shootings.
Since the Guardian’s reports on Kern County, calls have been made for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Bakersfield Police Department.
Families of several men killed by Bakersfield police held a press conference in October 2016 to call for the federal intervention, KERO-TV reported at the time.
Ben Meiselas, an attorney with the powerful law firm Geragos & Geragos, said they were there to send a message.
“That is for the Department of Justice to take over the Bakersfield Police Department,” Meiselas said. “And to have an inspector or a federal supervisor monitoring the department on a daily basis.”
The four families represented at the press conference all have open federal law suits against the department and have claimed “systematic corruption and widespread civil rights abuses within BPD.”
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