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Former San Diego police helicopter pilot injured in hit-and-run crash

Ring camera video captured the moment Tristan Gonzalez, a former San Diego Police Department helicopter pilot, was hit.

SAN DIEGO — The search continues for a hit-and-run driver who severely injured a former San Diego Police Department pilot last week.

Tristan Gonzalez was hit while on his bike, cycling down Catalina Boulevard near Bernice Drive on April 20 at 4:50 p.m. 

Gonzalez spoke to CBS 8 Thursday from his hospital bed.

He said he first encountered the driver of a white Toyota Tacoma a block earlier near Catalina Boulevard and Narragansett Avenue. He said he sensed the driver was getting dangerously close to him. At one point, he said the driver hit the handlebars of Gonzalez's bike.

Gonzalez said he approached the truck and looked into the window. He said the driver stared straight ahead and didn't acknowledge him. 

As they both continued down Catalina toward Bernice, he sensed he was about to be hit. 

"All of a sudden, I hear honking. I hear a car speed up, and sure enough, the same white truck came up alongside me," said Gonzalez. "I just had time to look over and to see it was the same truck and to see the driver steer and turn the truck and speed right into me. I went flying and landed in the street with several injuries."

He suffered a broken hip, clavicle, and a punctured lung. 

Ring camera video captured the moment the truck hit him.

Gonzalez said after he was hit, he worried another car would run over him, as Catalina Boulevard is a very busy street. 

He said the front bumper of a vehicle drove over his helmet but stopped right before the front tires drove over his head. He said the car had squished his head to the ground. He feared his life was about to end.

Neighbor Jamie Freedman heard the crash, called 9-1-1, and ran to help. 

"I was in the back of my house, and I heard a sound; I don't know if I can put into words how awful that sound was," she said.

Freedman and fellow neighbors stayed with Gonzalez until paramedics arrived. 

She said she was just grateful he survived.

Gonzalez, a 27-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, retired last year. He said he'd been a cyclist for 30 years.

He suspects what happened was intentional.

"Has [the suspect} done this before? Maybe this will like build something in him; maybe he's got more courage and confidence that he got away with this. He needs to be caught," he said.

He's hoping anyone with surveillance video in the neighborhood near the crash will look at their cameras and see if they have any video that might help police catch the suspect.

He described the suspect as a white male, 35-45 years old, wearing a baseball cap. He said the vehicle was a newer white Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck with an extended cab.

If you have any information, contact the San Diego Police Department.

WATCH RELATED: Hit-and-run driver caught on camera leaving crash in Lomita neighborhood

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