The family of Walter Freeman, a local cyclist killed Monday in a collision with a San Diego police patrol car, is asking the police department for a little compassion.
“Put down your pens and reports to be filed and visit the family. Look through a screen door and declare yourselves an unfortunate part of this tragedy,” said Freeman's stepson Joe Nieto, M.D.
Nieto spoke on behalf of Freeman’s family and his widow Yolanda at a memorial service in Sorrento Mesa Thursday night.
Freeman,63, was riding at Genesee and Governor Monday around 7:19 a.m. when he was hit and killed by a San Diego police officer responding to an accident call without lights and siren. The officer was not injured in the crash.
Investigators with the SDPD traffic division said independent witnesses to the accident reported that Freeman had just left the United Oil gas station and started heading southbound in the bike lane before riding across traffic lanes. Freeman rode into the cruiser's path, police said in a news release issued around noon Monday.
Freeman served in the U.S. Air Force, worked as a mechanical engineer and lived in San Diego for over 25 years.
“He cycled the roads of UCSD, Torrey Pines and Mission Bay Park without incident for over 20 years and made bike safety his number one priority,” said Nieto.
“He was a highly skilled, experience cyclist,” said Nieto.
Because of Freeman’s experience, his family wants to know more about the accident that killed him.
An emergency room physician, Nieto said he understands the need to collect data however he feels the San Diego police department could learn from agencies like the U.S. military and airlines when it comes to dealing with accident survivors.
“The file comes out in black and white and we are to go obtain that. I’ve got an issue with that. I think it can be done in a much more graceful way,” he said.
Freeman's family has requested a meeting with the officer involved in the accident.
“It doesn’t cost anything. We’re not asking for money. We’re asking for time and for respect,” Nieto said.
SDPD Assistant Police Chief Robert Kanaski attended the memorial service and spoke Friday about the family's concerns."I certainly understand how the family feels," said Kanaski.
“We did have what we called professional contact with the family,” he. “I think what the family was looking more for was what we call traditional comfort.”
Kanaski said the investigation into the accident should be done next week and the family will have full access to it.
“We will be meeting with the family,” he said. “We do plan on sitting down and talking with the family at length. Not just about the accident itself but any other items they want to talk about.”
Kanaski called the accident a difficult situation that affects not only Freeman's family but also the officer involved in the accident.
“It affects both sides. I know it affects Mr. Freeman’s family harder because there’s a loss," he said. "Yet even with the officer that was involved, there is a process he’s going through as well. This is something that will not be erased from his memory. It’s something he will always have."