- Video shows an Uber driver being racially berated before a maskless woman intentionally coughs on him and another allegedly pepper sprays him.
One woman has been arrested and another has agreed to turn herself in, after a video of them assaulting and pepper-spraying a San Francisco Uber driver, who asked one of them to put on a mask during their ride went viral, police say. Malaysia King, 24, was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery, conspiracy and violation of health and safety code, according to a statement from the San Francisco Police Department.
King was being held without bail. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had an attorney to speak on her behalf, The Mercury News reported. King is one of three passengers captured in dash-cam footage, one of whom appears to cough over the driver.
Another suspect, Arna Kimiai, 24, who also was sought in connection with the March 7 attack, indicated through legal counsel that she intended to turn herself in soon, a San Francisco Police Department statement said. “We’re glad to hear that Ms Kimiai intends to do the right thing,” said Lt Tracy McCray of the San Francisco Police Department. “We hope it happens promptly.” The third passenger has not yet been named.
The San Francisco Police Department previously said that a 32-year-old Uber driver had picked up three passengers on March 7 in the city’s Portola neighborhood, but ended their ride when one declined to wear a face mask, violating Uber’s policy and California’s statewide mask mandate. The driver, Subhakar Khadka, 32, who is originally from Nepal, told NBC News that he told one of the passengers that he would have to stop the ride if she didn’t have a mask to put on. He said he offered to bring them to a gas station so the passenger could buy a mask.
But in the time it took to get to the gas station, the passenger threatened him, saying she could call family members to “take care of me,” Khadka said. Feeling intimidated, he said he asked the passengers to get out of the car. But he said they refused, prompting Khadka to turn on the dashcam in his car.
After the passengers refused to leave, he decided to bring them back to their pickup location, Khadka said. While they were on the way, Khadka said they were arguing about the mask, the passengers weren’t wearing seat belts, and one had opened a car door. So he said he stopped the car again.”Luckily, my camera worked … it recorded audio, it recorded a video of the whole scene,” Khadka said to NBC. He said one of the passengers took out pepper spray and sprayed inside his car after he dropped them off. Khadka says he had to get out of his car because it became difficult to breathe.
One of them later, seated directly behind the driver appears to lean forward and cough towards Khadka. The woman, coughs and says, “You know? F- the mask. I got corona,” referring to the coronavirus. She then reaches for a mobile phone in the front, to which he replies: “Don’t touch my property.”
Several videos that circulated also showed the same woman removing Khadka’s own face mask, accusing him of driving them “into the middle of nowhere.”
Khadka said the situation made him feel vulnerable. “I never said anything bad to them, I never cursed, I was not raised that way,” Khadka said. He added that he believes he was attacked because he is a South Asian immigrant. He came to the U.S. eight years ago and works hard to support his family in Nepal.
In a statement published on its website, the San Francisco Police Department said the behavior captured on camera portrayed “callous disregard for the safety and wellbeing of an
essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic. We take this conduct very seriously in San Francisco, and we’re committed to ensuring that justice is done in this case,” the statement added.
Uber said in a statement on March 11 that it had banned all three riders. “Uber does not tolerate racism or hate in any form, against any community,” the statement said.
Restrictions in place in San Francisco to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 include wearing a mask “to cover your mouth and nose,” when within 2m (6ft) of someone who is not a member of your household, and when using public or “business” transportation.