Fate of police horse in fatal incident in doubt

The police horse that bolted outside Candlestick Park before a 49ers exhibition game on Saturday, killing a 78-year old fan, has been removed from official duties until an equine expert can assessed whether it's fit to return to the force.

The horse, named Seattle, was apparently startled after being blinded by a plastic bag that had been whipped up by the wind and caught in its bridle.  As the horse tried to shake the bag loose, it fell backwards and lost its veteran rider before taking off across a charter bus parking lot off on Ingerson Avenue.  It first knocked into a 47-year-old Millbrae man and then slammed into 78-year-old Roseville resident Eugene Caldwell, whose head hit the ground as he fell. 

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.

The horse will not be used during this Sunday's regular-season opener against Arizona at Candlestick, said SFPD spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens.

The police department has plans to hire a contractor who frequently works for The City to examine the horse, Gittens told The Examiner.

“We're having an independent evaluation and assessment by a horse expert to determine if the horse is OK,” Gittens said. “If not, all our horses go to a ranch up in Sonoma County, and that's where that horse will go.”

A decision on the horse's future is expected within a few weeks, according to Gittens.

Seattle has been with the mounted police force for more than three years.  The equestrian officer is a 28-year veteran of the police department including 10 years with the mounted patrol unit.

San Francisco has mounted horses at 49ers games so that officers have a better view of activities in the parking lot, according to Gittens.

The department contacted Caldwell's family to extend its condolences, according to his widow, Glenda.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Rancho Cordova, she said.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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