Taxi driver allegedly beats 2 passengers, faces charges

EVERETT — An Everett taxi driver is facing felony assault charges after he reportedly beat two women passengers with a metal baton.

Last month the driver called 911, complaining that the women wouldn’t get out of his minivan taxi and were refusing to pay. Prosecutors allege that witness statements and audio recordings contradict the man’s story. They have charged him with two counts of second-degree assault. He was being held on $40,000 bail.

The women told police they’d been shopping near the Everett Mall and called a taxi to take them home. They were with one of the women’s children, ages 1 and 4. The women said they budgeted $8 for the ride home, although they had more money with them.

They reportedly asked the driver if $8 would cover the fare. Traffic was heavy, and when the meter reached $7 they again asked about the fare and whether the meter would continue to run while they removed their packages and children from the van.

The defendant “lost all patience and professionalism,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter wrote in charging papers. The driver stopped the cab in the center turn lane of Seventh Avenue SE, cursed at the women and yelled for them to get out. He accused them of refusing to pay.

The women told the man they had the money. They asked the driver to pull over on the side of the road so they could get the children out safely. The man allegedly refused and demanded they get out. The sliding passenger door opened and “the terrified 4-year-old bolted from the vehicle. When she did, she ran immediately in front of a school bus traveling along the right side of the taxi,” Hunter wrote.

The bus driver honked and the girl jumped back into the taxi. The bus driver remained stopped to block traffic, court papers said.

One of the women started collecting their belongings from the back of the van while the other tried to gather their other packages and unbuckle the toddler.

The taxi driver called 911 to report that the women were refusing to pay him. While on the phone with the emergency dispatcher, the man allegedly shoved one of the women as she was picking up the 1-year-old, Hunter wrote. The woman told police she may have hit the man while she was swinging her arms back to stop his pushing, court papers said.

The man grabbed a collapsible metal baton from under his seat and allegedly started hitting the woman, who had the toddler in her arms. The other woman attempted to intervene. The driver allegedly turned the baton on her, beating her in the face and head. One of the blows split the woman’s scalp.

The taxi was equipped with a forward-facing video camera. Audio of the entire incident was captured on the recording. The video also shows one of the baton strikes, Hunter wrote.

The women were taken to a local hospital. One had cuts to her head, back and arm. The other needed eight staples to close the laceration to her scalp.

The driver doesn’t have a criminal history. He is facing a year in prison if convicted as charged.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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