Nearly a year since police shot and killed 73-year-old Francisco Serna in Bakersfield, California, Serna’s daughter and advocates held a media call on Thursday to respond to issues surrounding police violence. Speakers on the call also announced a local community vigil on Saturday that will highlight the high number of deaths by Kern County law enforcement and what advocates say is a lack of accountability by local government.
“My dad’s anniversary actually is December 12 of 2016,” said Laura Serna, whose 73-year-old father died after police were informed that he was carrying a gun, when in fact, he was holding a crucifix. “So, I wanted to do this part, organizing an event to remember him. We tragically lost him just before the holidays, so it was a difficult time for our family. I just feel like I like to get as many people out, and educate the public a little bit.”
During the call, Laura Serna referred to a new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report about excessive force by police in Kern County. One part of the report said that “Sixty-five percent of the people shot and killed by [Bakersfield Police Department] officers since 2013 were Latino, though Latinos comprise only 45% of the city’s total population.” Kern County is “where law enforcement officers have this year killed more people relative to the population than in any other American county,” according to a 2015 report from The Guardian.
Other speakers on the call were Josth Stenner with Kern County-based organization Faith in the Valley; Jacinta Gonzalez, National Field Director of Mijente; and Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.