‘Ghost Bike' Honors Cyclist

Someone left a unique memorial to Walter Freeman, a cyclist killed in a collision with a San Diego police patrol car in University City.

Freeman,63,  was riding at Genesee and Governor around 7:19 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9 when he was hit and killed by San Diego police officer Matthew Gagliardi, who was responding to an accident call without lights and siren. Gagliardi, who works out of the Northern Division and has been with the department since 2006, was not injured in the crash.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, a bicycle painted white stood, propped up, in a median at the site of the accident.

According to an email sent to NBCSanDiego, “a ghost bike is a memorial for a cyclist who was killed by a vehicle on the streets. They are placed at the crash site to remember the tragedy of the fallen and to remind drivers to be cautious and to share the road.”

Posted on the bike, painted white, was a sign that read “Walter Freeman, Cyclist, Killed By Motorist.”

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 the day of the accident.

However, traffic investigators were at the scene of the fatal crash Friday, Nov. 20 staging a re-enactment.

“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 Freeman's stepson Joe Nieto, M.D.

“He was a highly skilled, experienced 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 expected the investigation into the accident to be completed the week after the accident.

“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."

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