Police Cruiser Strikes, Kills Bicyclist

University City tragedy raises vehicle vs. bikes safety issues

By Gene Cubbison and Tony Shin
|  Monday, Nov 9, 2009  |  Updated 10:10 PM PDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
A San Diego police officer whose car collided with a bicyclist in University City was responding to an accident call without lights and siren, according to investigators.

A San Diego police officer whose car collided with a bicyclist in University City was responding to an accident call without lights and siren, according to investigators.

advertisement
Photos and Videos
More Photos and Videos

A San Diego police car responding to a traffic accident struck and killed a bicyclist in University City on Monday morning.

The collision occurred at 7:19 a.m. near the busy intersection of Genesee Avenue and Governor Drive.   The Medical Examiner has identified the victim as 63 year old Walter Freeman.

Police investigators said Freeman was leaving the United Mark gas station at the northwest corner of the intersection when the officer approached, heading south on Genesee.

"[The officer] was not traveling with lights or siren," said Sgt. Leonard Flake, head of SDPD's Fleet Safety Unit. "As he approached the interesection, the bicyclist for some reason or another moved from the bicycle lane and into the path of the southbound police car. He was struck by the push bumper of the police car and was pronounced dead at the scene."

Police said  witnesses confirmed that the bicyclist actually moved two lanes out of the bike lane and that the officer had no time to swerve or brake.

Investigators said there's no indication the officer was exceeding the 45-mph speed limit.

Because of the unknown nature of the accident to which he was responding, which took place farther south on Genesee, he was not required to use lights and siren, according to police. The police cruiser's windshield was smashed, and its light bar mostly ripped away.

Freeman's body lay under a yellow wrap as students from a nearby grade school and middle school were escorted across the intersection via the pedestrian crosswalks. Eventually, a tarp was raised around the body as investigators catalogued the scene.

"He was an incredible man, incredibly noble,"said the victim's daughter Yvonne Nieto.  "I would like to think that I was his best riding partner."

Nieto said her Father was an experienced rider who always preached safety.  "He taught me how to ride, we were extremely cautious, we would always heed on the side of being careful,"Nieto told NBC 7/39.  "Something doesn't seem right."

Nieto is hoping surveillance cameras at nearby gas stations will reveal exactly what happened.  "I just have questions about the officer and why he didn't see Walt,"Nieto said.

Leonard said the officer involved has been on the force for 18 months and is deeply affected by the accident.

"We all value life," Leonard said, "and no one wants to get involved in a situaton like this and have this weigh on their conscience. We've got resources available for the officer, should he need them."

It's not clear what the officer's duty status will be for the next couple of days, Leonard said.

Another cyclist who rides through the intersection to work each day said there's no margin for error in stopping, looking and listening.

"You're exposed," said Evan Schumacher as he waited on his bike for clearance to cross Governor at northbound Genesee. "And you try to make eye contact with the driver and let them know what you're doing. Not everyone sees it, and you have to be aware at all times, really."

Echoed a leading local senior cyclist, John Adams: "I believe in looking; the cyclist has to make some motion."

Adams is a member of the San Diego Wheelmen cycling club. He's still recoveirng from severe injuries sustained when he was clipped by a pickup truck's mirror on a pleasure ride near Sedona, Ariz., on Sept. 24.

"We know that if eye contact between the cyclist and motorist is not made," Adams said in an interview, "then that'll cause a problem -- because no one knows who's going to do what."

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out