Cab driver speaks out about stolen cab crash

February 28, 2011 2:42:01 PM PST
Police say a California man dragged a New York City taxi driver out of his cab, took over the cab and crashed it into a stoplight.

The city has already put up a temporary traffic signal where a man crashed his stolen cab.

The driver of the cab says looking back on what happened, he is lucky to be alive.

Mohammed Latif has driven a cab for the last three years.

Up until Sunday morning, he had never been mugged nor had his cab stolen from him.

But all that changed when he says a passenger turned violent, not only beating him, but then taking his cab on a wild ride that ended with it smashed into a light pole in Union Square.

"Every single day when we go to work, we think about getting back home safe or not," Latif said.

Latif says it all started around 3 a.m. at Delancey Street and the Bowery, when he picked up a passenger who police have identified as 31-year-old Michael Findley.

Latif says they got into an argument after he told Findley he couldn't eat in the cab and things got worse when he says Findley told him he didn't have enough money for the fare.

At Houston and Broadway, Latif told the passenger to get out of the cab. That is when he says he got attacked.

"He suddenly came out beating me, punched me here and here," Latif said.

Police say Findley then got behind the wheel of the cab.

Latif says he jumped into the passenger side and tried to calm the man down as he started to drive West on Houston, but Latif says he then jumped out when he realized things had gotten out of hand.

The police say Findley went on a wild ride going up the wrong way on Mercer, driving through red lights, and then finally crashing into a light post in Union Square.

The head of the Federation of Taxi Drivers says this case highlights a serious problem. While The Taxi and Limousine Commission clearly states in its rules drivers don't have to pick up drunk or disorderly fares, drivers say they are pressured to do it anyway, and in the process put their lives at risk.

"If you stop 10 cabs, they don't think they have flexibility," said Fernando Mateo, of the Federation of Taxi Drivers.

A spokesman for the TLC says the rules speak for themselves.

Drivers do not have to pick up drunken fares.

Findley is charged with DWI, Robbery, and Grand Larceny.

Ten minutes after the stolen taxi crash, just one block away, a 28-year-old man was struck by a hit-and-run driver on East 15th Street.

The driver sped off leaving the victim critically injured.

So far, there are no arrests in that case.