Minneapolis cab drivers nervous after gun incidentsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — Police officials announced today the arrest of a 20-year-old man suspected of shooting and killing a taxi cab driver last week.
Hennepin County officials say they will decide by Thursday afternoon whether or not to bring charges against the man suspected of killing William Harper, 56.
The arrest comes days after another driver was beaten and robbed at gunpoint. Some Minneapolis cab drivers say the incidents have left them feeling scared.
Every day in downtown Minneapolis, taxis queue up in cab stands near the entrances of hotels. Drivers can spend several hours waiting in line for a fare. So they often gather in small groups on the sidewalk next to their cars while they wait.
Mishu Abeje said the recent shooting of one driver and the beating and robbery of another is causing fear and panic among drivers.
"Yesterday, a friend of mine he came to me and 'Oh Yellow Taxi again. They rob him, they beat him. They take his money.' I say, maybe tomorrow you. Maybe after tomorrow me," Abeje said.
Abeje has been driving a cab in Minneapolis for four years and says he has already been robbed. It happened three years ago, he said, while dropping off a man and two women at a house in north Minneapolis. Abeje says a woman reached over the seat and grabbed him while a man in the front seat pulled out a knife.
"The guy just take a knife — and the time I told him I just give him the money," Abeje said. "I don't know the amount, $65 or $100, I don't know because I don't count."
After that, Abeje bought a small security camera and mounted it in his car just above the rear view mirror. He hopes the camera will deter future robberies, or at least help police find a suspect if it happens again.
One of Abeje's colleagues on the sidewalk says many drivers refuse to take fares to north Minneapolis out of fear of being robbed or fear that the passenger will leave without paying. But Abeje said fare-duckers aren't isolated to the north side. Just this past weekend, he said a woman he dropped off at a St. Louis Park building left his cab without paying a $23 fare.
Assaults and robberies in north Minneapolis have increased this year. But driver Sisaoa Hirua says he can't legally turn somebody down just because they want to go to north Minneapolis.
"Sometimes you can tell with a face, to see the person, 'No I don't want to take this guy.' But the ordinance is pushing you to take anybody who comes to you," Hirua said.
Neither can Hirua refuse transportation to a passenger, even if he feels uncomfortable.
City law states that cab drivers cannot refuse to pick up an "orderly" person. But Yemane Mebrahtu president of the Minneapolis Taxicab Drivers and Owners Association, said drivers can — and do — dismiss customers who become unruly.
Cab drivers have been frightened by the latest violence, Mebrahtu said, and they welcome the news that police have made an arrest. He hopes the arrest will be a deterrent to others who might assault cab drivers.
"When criminals get caught, then that sends a signal that 'Don't even think about it,' " Mebrahtu said.
- All Things Considered, 03/21/2012, 5:24 p.m.