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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Drunk fan beats up Sikh cabbie

Seattle-area man allegedly calls Singh 'Iraqi terrorist'; community outraged

Members of Seattle's Sikh community are outraged after an intoxicated football fan attacked a Sikh taxi driver last weekend in what is being investigated as an apparent hate crime.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Kent man, was released on $25,000 bail Monday. He remains under investigation for third-degree assault and malicious harassment, the state's hate crime charge, court and jail records say.

Trying to escape the attack, the 48-year-old victim stopped in a car pool lane Saturday night on Interstate 5, near Columbian Way, and scrambled out, state troopers said. His attacker had punched, choked and bitten him, calling him an "Iraqi terrorist," according to police reports.

Only minutes before, police had asked the driver to take the suspect home after he had been ejected from Husky Stadium during the Apple Cup, the State Patrol reported.

The suspect knocked off the victim's turban and tore out clumps of his hair, according to reports. The beating continued as the victim fell onto the road. The victim briefly was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center for injuries that included a concussion and bite marks on his head, according to police and acquaintances.

"Sikhs here in this area want this handled appropriately and taken seriously as a hate crime," said Hardeep Singh Rekhi, an acquaintance of the victim's and local attorney who volunteers with The Sikh Coalition, a national support organization.

"I've lived in Seattle my whole life, and I know this is something Seattle wouldn't find acceptable for its community members to do."

The State Patrol still was investigating and interviewing witnesses, Trooper Jeff Merrill said.

State troopers were called about 8 p.m. A Metro bus stopped next to the cab to block traffic after seeing the suspect attacking the victim in the road. Witnesses aboard the bus made dozens of calls to 911, Merrill said.

"It should be alarming that we have this type of violence. We're in Seattle, and this is an educated city. We like to think we hold ourselves above this type of behavior," Merrill said.

The taxi driver, Sukhvir Singh, had stopped for food at a market on Montlake Avenue, near Husky Stadium, when police officers asked if he could drive the suspect home and he agreed, according the State Patrol.

On the way to the suspect's home, the suspect launched into a tirade of epithets and attacked Singh, according to police reports.

The suspect, witnesses said, was trying to climb into the bus that had stopped alongside when state troopers first arrived. His aggression continued toward officers, who nearly chose to subdue him with Taser stun guns, Merrill said. [Link]

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