EXCLUSIVE: Beating of Uber driver on Long Island could bring about new legislation

ByCeFaan Kim, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, April 21, 2017
Exclusive: Livery driver brutally beaten on Long Island
CeFaan Kim has the exclusive interview.

BELLMORE, Long Island (WABC) -- The vicious beating of an Uber driver on Long Island could bring about new laws aimed at protecting drivers.

"He asked me, 'Where you from?' So I told him, 'I'm from Pakistan.' And then he asked me, 'What is your religion?' So I told him, 'I'm Muslim,' because I am Muslim," said Anwar Syed, the victim said.

Syed says it started out like any other ride.

But the Uber driver says, as soon as he admitted he was Muslim, his passenger asked him to pull over.

That's when cops say 23-year-old Phillip Gannotta grabbed Syed's flashlight and unloaded viscous blow after blow.

"He hit me so hard that I knocked out," Syed said.

Police say Gannotta beat him bloody with that flashlight and left him unconscious lying in the street.

It happened in February in Bellmore.

Police say Gannotta kicked out the rear passenger window and fractured Syed's eye socket.

He spent five days in the hospital.

"My son went to school, his psychiatrist called me and he asked me could you please talk to him because he's very disturbed. My daughter is very disturbed. My son is only 9 years old, my daughter is 13 years old," Syed said.

But as if the headaches and blurry vision from that beating he still deals with aren't enough, what's scarier he says, state laws don't do enough to protect him.

"Right now if you attack a bus driver or train conductor it's a felony assault, but if you punch a cab driver in the face, it's a misdemeanor," Syed said.

State Assemblyman Ron Kim is trying to change that.

He's introducing legislation that would extend the same protections for bus drivers and train conductors to cover cab drivers.

"We want to send a strong message. Don't attack drivers who are predominantly from minority and immigrant communities. These individuals are out there working hard putting food on the table," Assem. Kim said.

In the meantime, Syed says he'll keep doing his job because he doesn't have any other choice.

"I am scared, but like you know got to go to work, got to go to work. That's it," Syed said.

A law that would protect cab drivers though, Syed says that would be a start.