SDPD Still Silent on Crash That Killed Cyclist

Last November, Walter Freeman, an experienced cyclist and University City resident, was killed at the intersection of Governor Drive and Genesee Avenue by a San Diego Police Department officer in a cruiser responding to a call without lights or sirens activated. The SDPD claimed at the time that the officer was travelling the posted speed limit of 45 m.p.h., and witnesses at the scene said that Freeman turned out of a gas station parking lot, crossed two lanes, and entered the path of the cruiser. Freeman was wearing a bright reflective vest and a helmet at the time.

In the weeks after the crash, Freeman’s family pleaded publicly with the SDPD to communicate with them about the investigation. They knew Walter to be a conscientious, experienced, and safe cyclist, and could not understand how or why the deadly crash occurred.

In the months since Freeman’s death, Bike San Diego has tried to contact the SDPD several times to learn more details of the incident and the status of the investigation. The typical response from the SDPD has been silence, and we have been explicitly denied the official report into the crash (which was supposedly finished in February) on the grounds that we are not family members or holders of an official media credential. When we applied for a media credential, we were denied.

Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s office was sympathetic to our wishes to have the investigation made public, but apparently lacked either the will or the power to compel the SDPD to release any details of the investigation.

In May of this year, I was interviewed by the Channel 10 investigative team about the Walter Freeman case in connection with a story they were planning to run about the apparently high number of traffic accidents involving the SDPD. In that interview, I made the case that any time a public safety officer is involved in the death of a citizen, the public has a right to know the details of the incident. The producer of that story told me she was also denied the official report into the crash, and at the time I talked to them, their request for a redacted report was then being ignored by the SDPD.

I promised not to post about the interview until Channel 10 ran their story, which they said would be later in the month. But the story never ran, and my attempt to contact the producer last week has also gone unanswered. I can only conclude that neither Channel 10 nor the SDPD cares any longer (if indeed they ever did) that a bicyclist was killed by an on-duty SDPD officer and that no details of the investigation are being released to the public.

I have since learned that the family of Walter Freeman may currently have legal action pending against the city and/or the SDPD. My attempt to confirm this with SDPD has also gone unanswered.

So, in the absence of any further details, the question we posed almost a year ago still stands: what was that SDPD officer doing behind the wheel of that cruiser, supposedly travelling the speed limit, that he or she did not see the brightly-colored (and by all accounts ordinarily safety-conscious) cyclist enter the roadway and cross two lanes? Was that officer driving distracted? Will we ever know?