JURUPA VALLEY (CBSLA) — Five days ago, the lives of a Jurupa Valley family changed forever after 33-year-old Ernie Serrano died shortly after a violent arrest, some of which was captured on camera.
“Ernie did not deserve to die this way. I keep replaying it in my head. I wonder what he was thinking… did he know he was going to die?” said Serrano’s cousin, Mailena.
Deputies said Serrano tried to grab a security guard’s gun, and that’s why they took action against him.
According to Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, on December 15, deputies were responding to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon at a Jurupa Valley grocery store and trying to detain Serrano as a suspect.
They released a statement saying when their deputies arrived they saw Serrano fighting with a security guard, and at one point he tried to remove the guard’s firearm.
The department also says Serrano continued to fight with deputies and did not comply with commands.
Questions are now being raised about the arrest after cell phone video showed one deputy repeatedly striking Serrano with a baton at a check-out counter before others rushed in.
The sheriff’s department says that once in custody, Serrano stopped breathing and died at the hospital.
At a prayer vigil held outside the grocery store on Sunday, his mother spoke out, calling for “justice for Ernie,” and arguing that Serrano was not in the wrong, according to the cell phone video showing part of the incident.
“It’s about all lives matter,” she said. “They’re supposed to protect and serve not rush and kill. Nobody deserves to die like he did and he was not fighting back. He was not doing like they said he did.”
“He was not doing anything, any report of a fight with a security guard was long over even if that’s true,” one supporter said.
The family’s lawyers say they will file a legal claim on Monday and are immediately seeking to see the security video from the store that captured the full incident.
Serrano’s official cause of death has not yet been released.
The sheriff’s department says their investigation is continuing.