Accident with police horse kills 78-year-old man

A 78-year-old Roseville man was killed by a stampeding police horse in a Candlestick Park parking lot Friday night, about an hour before a 49ers exhibition game, police said.

The horse was apparently startled after being blinded by a plastic bag that had been whipped up by the wind and caught in its bridle. It also injured two others, including the officer riding it, as it fled across a charter bus parking lot off of Ingerson Avenue, according to Sgt. Neville Gittens.

The incident happened just before 6 p.m. As the horse tried to shake the bag loose, it bucked its head and tumbled backward onto the ground, bringing the officer down with it. The steed then scrambled to its feet, broke loose from its rider and began a mad dash southbound toward Gate B of the stadium.

It first knocked into a 47-year-old Millbrae man, spinning him around, and then slammed into 78-year-old Eugene Caldwell, whose head hit the ground, Gittens said. The horse was eventually brought under control just outside of Gate B by a fan attending the game.

The officer and the Millbrae man suffered minor injuries and were both treated at the scene and released.

Caldwell was brought to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died, according to the San Francisco medical examiner.

Gittens described the incident as a freak and unfortunate accident.

“I can’t recall anything like this happening before,” he said.

The horse, named Seattle, has been with the mounted police force for more than three years, Gittens said. The equestrian officer, whose name was not released, is a 28-year-veteran of the Police Department, including 10 years with the mounted patrol unit. The officer was not put on paid administrative leave, and there’s no indication the horse will be put down, Gittens said.

“We are in the process of conducting a complete and thorough investigation,” he said.

San Francisco has mounted horses at 49ers games so that officers have a better view of activities in the parking lot, Gittens said. The City’s mounted unit, which was created in 1874, includes 10 horses, seven officers and one sergeant. San Francisco is one of the few remaining U.S. cities that employs such a unit.

The San Francisco 49ers organization said it was saddened about the death of one of its fans.

“This was an unfortunate incident and we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family,” the team said in a statement.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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