A Bakersfield, California, police officer is on administrative leave as investigators try to determine why he shot an unarmed senior citizen with dementia. Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco stated to media that at about 12:30 a.m. officers responded to a report of a man brandishing a handgun in the 7900 block of Silver Birch Avenue, a neighborhood in the southwest section of the city. While at the scene, a witness pointed to a man in the driveway of a residence. An officer then inexplicably fired several rounds at the man, striking and killing him at the scene.
The dead man has been identified as Francisco Serna, a retired father of five children who lived a few blocks away. Police searched the area and could not find a gun on Serna’s body or his house or vehicle. According to his son, Rogelio Serna, “My dad did not own a gun. He was a 73-year-old retired grandpa, just living life. He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.” His son also stated that his father suffered from dementia, was having trouble sleeping lately and had recently been experiencing dementia-induced delusions. To relieve his symptoms, Serna would often take late-night walks. Police have had prior contact with the elder Serna before when he activated his medical alarm at his home when he became confused. It is unknown at this time if Serna activated his alarm before he was shot by police.
It is estimated that about 50 percent of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment will eventually develop severe Alzheimer’s disease within five years. There are very few treatments for Alzheimer’s and currently, there is no cure for the disease, which affects 26 million people worldwide.
Sgt. Carruesco further stated to media that the officer involved in the shooting was placed on administrative leave, a routine procedure. An internal investigation into the shooting was launched on Monday.