Last month, Bakersfield police fatally shot a 73 year-old man suffering from dementia outside of his home after responding to a call in the early morning hours of Dec. 14. After receiving a report of a man with a revolver acting strangely in a residential neighborhood, cops confronted Francisco Serna, who was walking on the street in front of his house while carrying a crucifix in his jacket pocket. He was shot after police said he failed to respond to orders to stop approaching and remove his hands from his jacket. But instead of using non-lethal tactics to subdue the man, Officer Reagan Selman fired seven shots at Cerna, who died at the scene near his home. Police only discovered the man was unarmed after he was shot, authorities say.
This tragic story was made even worse by the fact that Cerna was the father of Roy Serna, aka DJ Mr. Groove, a member of vinyl DJ collective Funk Freaks. The sudden loss of his father came as a shock to the entire crew, who long ago adopted Serna as part of their collective, which started in Costa Mesa and has since branched out throughout Southern California with satellite chapters throughout the US and Europe. As a respected DJ and collector of rare funk and soul music, his loss is felt by the entire Funk Freaks community.
“Groove is our boy,” says DJ and Funk Freaks co-founder Ivan “Debo” Marquez. “When we first started Funk Freaks he used to drive out to OC from Bakersfield just to see us play because he collected funk music. Over a couple years later, we saw his devotion and we decided to make him part of our crew and he’s been a brother to us ever since.”
To help Mr. Groove and his family in the wake of his father’s death, the Funk Freaks organized a benefit show tomorrow at Original Mike’s from 3-10 p.m. to raise money for Serna’s family.
“We’re putting this together to save up money to help with the funeral costs. Whatever we get out of this is just going straight to the family,” Marquez says.
In addition to spinning records from their stable of ’80s boogie funk treasures, legendary funk band Ozone will headline the night with a special set dedicated to Serna’s memory. Over the years, the band’s hits “Strutt My Thang,” and “Gigolette” have become staples at Funk Freak’s packed monthly club nights at OG Mike’s. With various chapters of the group constantly popping up all over the U.S. and Europe, the vinyl DJ crew is now an undeniable presence in the funk world. With the amount if power they wield on the decks and in the streets, Funk Freaks hope to spread awareness about the lack of justice in a system that allows this type fatal police brutality to continue.
“Obviously [Mr. Serna] was suffering from dementia, he was in his 70s, he shouldn’t have been killed, that’s nonsense,” Marquez says. “If you’re telling me that seven officers can’t take down an elderly man with a crucifix in his hand, something needs to change.”