A73-year-old dementia sufferer was shot dead by police in Bakersfield, California, after reports he might have a gun, only to find he was carrying a crucifix.
According to Bakersfield officials, officers opened fire at Francisco Serna seconds after he was pointed out to them.
Police said the old man refused officer commands to take his hands out of his pockets, and neighbors had complained he was threatening people and might be armed.
A 2015 study rated Bakersfield Police Department as the deadliest in the US.
Francisco Serna’s family said the shooting in the city, 110 miles north of Los Angeles, was murder.
“It is difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so brutally, abruptly and with such excessive violence,” his family said in a statement read aloud during a candlelight vigil at their home on December 13.
“We feel our dad was stolen from us at a time when our family should be celebrating the holidays, birthdays and making happy family memories.”
The retired father-of-five was shot to death in his neighbor’s driveway at around 00:45 local time on December 12.
Francisco Serna was walking towards a police officer who was responding to a report of an armed man acting threateningly, officials said.
Bakersfield police Chief Lyle Martin said Officer Reagan Selman fired seven shots at Francisco Serna when he was about 15-20ft away from him.
Officer Reagan Selman, and six other officers present, have been placed on routine administrative leave.
Chief Lyle Martin initially said the object found in Francisco Serna’s pocket was difficult to describe, without offering further details.
However, a subsequent statement from Bakersfield Police Department read: “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.”
Police say that Francisco Serna accosted two different people in his southwest Bakersfield neighborhood, before the fatal encounter with police.
In the first incident, a neighbor said Francisco Serna was banging on windows and doors outside his house on December 11, while keeping one hand on an object inside his pocket.
When the man opened his door, Francisco Serna grabbed his hand to pull him outside while challenging him to fight, according to the neighbor, who did not initially report the incident to police.
The man believed that Francisco Serna was carrying a pistol, he later said.
In the second incident, Francisco Serna approached two female neighbors in their driveway shortly after midnight and demanded to see inside their vehicle.
Francisco Serna again kept his hand on an object inside his jacket pocket during the encounter.
The woman ran inside her house and called police to report that she had seen a dark brown or black-handled object which she believed was a gun.
As officers spoke to the women, Francisco Serna left his house and began walking towards them, which led to the fatal shooting, said police.
Officers opened fire about 20 to 30 seconds after the woman had pointed Francisco Serna out to them, Chief Lyle Martin said.
Francisco Serna’s son, Rogelio, told the LA Times: “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.”
A 2015 Mapping Police Violence study rated Bakersfield Police Department as the deadliest in the US, logging 13.6 killings for every million people, compared with an average of 3.6.