Unarmed 73-year-old man with dementia was shot 9 times by Bakersfield police, son says

A 73-year-old man with early stages of dementia was shot and killed Monday by a Bakersfield police officer nine times during a late-night walk despite being unarmed, his son said.

In a video on Facebook, Rogelio Serna, who also goes by Roy, insisted his father, Francisco Serna, was not armed when he was fatally shot by Bakersfield police in the 7900 block of Silver Birch Avenue.

“Right across the street is where police shot my father with nine bullets to his body and my dad was not armed,” he said in the video. “There is false reports about my father having weapons. He was never armed.”

His family will hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the neighborhood where he was killed.

Police received a report at 12:35 a.m. that a man was brandishing a handgun, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco said.

When officers arrived, a witness pointed to a man in the driveway of a residence, he said. An officer fired several rounds at him, Carruesco said. Serna died at the scene.

After the shooting, investigators searched the area and did not recover a gun, he said.

Rogelio Serna said his father taking a walk at the time of the shooting because he had trouble sleeping. His father “took small walks to cope and make himself tired,” the son said.

“Around 12:30 a.m. Monday morning, Sunday late nite, he took his last walk and was killed in a 15 min window frame [right] across the street from his home,” Rogelio Serna said on Facebook.

Francisco Serna was a retired father of five children and lived on the block where the shooting occurred, Rogelio Serna told The Times on Monday.

Serna’s son said his father had shown signs of dementia since 2015 and occasionally experienced delusions. His symptoms seemed more pronounced in the last month, his son said. 

“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.”

Police searched the family’s home and cars after the shooting and did not recover a firearm, his son said.

The elder Serna had worked at a cotton gin in McFarland. Calif., for years and retired in the early to mid-2000s, his son said. Rogelio Serna said his parents moved to Bakersfield about eight years ago, leaving the town of Wasco so they could be closer to their children. He lived with his wife and one of his daughters.

Bakersfield police had visited Francisco Serna’s home at least two times before because his father would become confused and activate a medical alarm, Rogelio Serna said. It’s unclear if the alarm was the call that prompted police to respond early Monday.

Carruesco did not immediately confirm if officers had visited the home before.

The officer involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the department’s critical review board, Carruesco said.

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