Slain man’s cru­ci­fix mis­taken for gun

Po­lice com­mands re­peat­edly re­fused

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AMANDA LEE MY­ERS AND AN­DREW DAL­TON

LOS AN­GE­LES | A 73-year-old man with de­men­tia fa­tally shot by po­lice had a cru­ci­fix — not a gun — as of­fi­cers were led to be­lieve, Bak­ers­field po­lice said Wed­nes­day.

A coro­ner found the plas­tic cru­ci­fix on Francisco Serna well af­ter an of­fi­cer fa­tally shot him near his home just af­ter mid­night Mon­day, Sgt. Gary Car­ruesco said.

It’s still un­clear if a 911 caller who had re­ported a man with a gun may have mis­taken the cru­ci­fix for a weapon, as Mr. Serna’s fam­ily spec­u­lated.

Of­fi­cer Rea­gan Sel­man fired at Mr. Serna seven times af­ter the grand­fa­ther re­fused re­peated com­mands to take his hand out of his pocket and stop walk­ing to­ward po­lice, in­com­ing Bak­ers­field Po­lice Chief Lyle Martin said at a news con­fer­ence late Tues­day.

In ad­di­tion to the 911 caller, Chief Martin said two peo­ple who had en­coun­tered Mr. Serna hours be­fore the shoot­ing thought he was armed.

Mean­while Mr. Serna’s fam­ily is call­ing his death murder. They say they want an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the shoot­ing and for the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment to look into whether po­lice vi­o­lated Mr. 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 Sel­man, who had been on the force about 16 months, was placed on rou­tine ad­min­is­tra­tive leave, as were the other of­fi­cers at the scene.

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

Chief Martin could not say how many of the seven shots hit Mr. Serna.

The shoot­ing came about 20 to 30 sec­onds af­ter a wo­man who had en­coun­tered Mr. Serna pointed him out to po­lice as he walked out of his house across the street and to­ward them, Chief Martin said.

Ear­lier on Sun­day af­ter­noon, Chief Martin said an­other neigh­bor en­coun­tered Mr. Serna, say­ing his hand was in his jacket pocket as though he had a gun. Mr. Serna tried to force his way into the house of the neigh­bor, who called his be­hav­ior bizarre, Chief Martin said.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Serna’s hand in his jacket pocket and thought he had a gun, Chief 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.

Of­fi­cer Sel­man and his part­ner were first to ar­rive, fol­lowed by five other of­fi­cers. Only Of­fi­cer Sel­man fired.

Mr. Serna’s son, Ro­ge­lio, 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 Serna said in the video.

He wrote in an­other post that his fa­ther had de­men­tia and would go on small walks when he had trou­ble sleep­ing. “Last night he took his last walk,” Ro­ge­lio Serna wrote.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ru­bia Serna was con­soled by sons Jesse (right) and Frank at a can­dle­light vigil Tues­day in Bak­ers­field, Cal­i­for­nia. Francisco Serna, 73, her hus­band and their fa­ther, was shot by po­lice when he re­fused to take his hand out of his pocket, which held a cru­ci­fix.

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