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Neighbors recount morning unarmed man was shot by police

73-year-old Francisco Serna is seen in a photo provided by Serna's family on Dec. 12, 2016. (KBAK/KBFX)

After police confirmed that 73-year-old Francisco Serna was unarmed when a Bakersfield police officer shot and killed him, family said they were devastated, but relieved police admitted there was no gun.

Family said Serna never owned a gun, and if anything was holding a cross.

Tuesday, Sgt. Gary Carruesco confirmed that in a press release stating, "During a search of Mr. Serna a dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix was recovered. Mr. Serna was not armed at the time of the shooting. No firearm has been recovered."

Tuesday neighbors tried to piece together what happened around 12:30 Monday morning when Serna was shot.

Neighbor Donald Clark said he saw police shoot and kill Serna.

"He had absolutely nothing. No gun, no knife, no stick, nothing," Clark said.

Clark said the next day police were in the neighborhood searching for a weapon.

"They pretended like they were searching for a weapon, but you should have seen a weapon because you [police] pulled that first shot. There was no weapon," Clark said.

Clark recalls police telling Serna to show his hands. He said police screamed, "show us your hands, show us your hands." Clark said Serna looked confused.

Serna was shot dead in the driveway of neighbor Mable Jones. Jones' house is right across the street from Serna's.

Jones said her daughter encountered Serna moments before police arrived.

According to Jones, her daughter was coming home from work after midnight on Monday. Her friend was driving the car, and when Jones' daughter got out of the passenger side Serna was standing behind her.

"He asked her who are you and what are you doing," Jones said.

Jones said Serna asked to see inside of the car, but she said no. She said Serna then started moving his hand out of his pocket, and Jones' daughter thought she was in danger and that he had a weapon.

Jones said Serna then walked back to his house, and came back out when police arrived on scene.

Jones said Serna started walking across the street and heard police tell him to get back in the house.

"'Sir go back in the house, go back, go back,' and he kept coming, 'sir go back in the house, we’re going to sick the dogs on you, go back,' still kept coming…the next thing you know they shot him," Jones said.

Family of Serna said he was in the early stages of dementia, and recently the medication was causing paranoia. He often took walks around the neighborhood at night to help him sleep.

"He's always walking," Clark said. "Everybody in the neighborhood knows who he is, if you don't know him you see him around."

Clark and Jones both told Eyewitness News that they believe police did not handle this situation in the right way.

"Why didn’t you just shoot to take him down, or use your stun gun or something, or just stick the dog on him that way you could have got him, handcuffed him, took him to the hospital, he would have been okay," Jones said.

"They [police] let the dog nibble on him, bark at him and everything, but the man was dying, I'm just being honest, he was on his last breath and he was begging for help," Clark said.

Faith in the Valley has been advocating for increased transparency between police and the community for years. Member Josch Stenner said he is hopeful the new Bakersfield Police Chief, Lyle Martin, will bring change to the department.

"We are eternal optimists, because I think we have to be," Stenner said. "We need to see change from the department. We need to see Martin be the person people think that he can be. Not just be given a pass."

Stenner said his group attempted to arrange a town hall meeting with law enforcement leaders shortly after the new chief was named. The meeting was reportedly cancelled after City Manager Alan Tandy said Martin wasn't "prepared" for the encounter.

"It seems extremely fitting-- extremely sad and extremely fitting-- that somebody lost their lives while they were planning these demands for change," Stenner said. "They are saying they are not prepared. Well I'm absolutely certain that the Sernas weren't prepared to have their grandpa slaughtered."

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