Uber driver claims passenger thought he was Muslim, attacked him
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte Uber driver said he was attacked early Sunday morning by a passenger who apparently thought the driver was a Muslim.
"He asked me if I was a Muslim. I said I was not a Muslim," said the victim, Samson Woldemichael. "I was driving and he hit me while I was driving."
Woldemichael said it started after he went to Park Road to pick up a passenger from a bar. He said the man gave him his home address, which was about 10 to 15 minutes away.
According to Woldemichael, the drive started out peacefully. But he said when he arrived at the drop off location, the passenger became belligerent.
"He said he's gonna shoot me right in the face. He's gonna strangle me," Woldemichael told WBTV. "I asked him why. He was calling me too many bad word names... insulting me. He told me I was a Muslim."
Woldemichael said he came to the U.S. eight years ago from Ethiopia, a country in the horn of Africa - and that he's a Christian. He doesn't know why the passenger assumed he is a Muslim, or threatened to shoot him.
"I told him in the first place I was not a Muslim. It's not right to generalize people and do that," he said.
The Uber driver said after the passenger threatened to kill him, he asked the man to get out of the car. According to Woldemichael, the passenger refused to leave, and wanted Woldemichael to get out of the car.
"I started driving because I didn't feel safe anymore to park there," he said. "So after driving around the block, he hit from the back real hard on the forehead. Fortunately, I didn't lose consciousness. I didn't pass out. He charged with one and he was beating with the other repeatedly on my head."
Woldemichael said he stopped the car and started honking his horn, hoping to attract attention and get help. He said the passenger got out of the car, and "ran away a little bit."
The driver said he then stepped out of the vehicle himself, but decided to get back in.
"He was saying he would shoot me and he was acting like he's hiding his hand in his back, so he was acting like he was armed." Woldemichael said he drove off and called 911.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say no arrest has been made. They're still investigating the case.
People who hire Uber drivers have to pay up front with their credit cards, and give their information. Woldemichael is hoping police will be able to track the passenger.
Uber told WBTV on Tuesday that they're working with police, and have already removed the rider's account.
"First and foremost, we're relieved the driver is ok and was not seriously injured. Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and is not tolerated on the Uber platform," an Uber spokesperson told WBTV Tuesday. "As soon as we were made aware, we permanently removed the rider's account."
Uber's statement continued, "We will work with local law enforcement in every way we can to assist their investigation."
A day and a half after the alleged incident, Woldemichael is still trying to make sense of what happened.
"It's really bad. I realize that there are people who need to be educated who think that way" he said. He says he has a message for people.
"There are people who are not originally from here but who are really Americans in their hearts. They love the system. They love the country and they want to protect the system here," he said. "And they want to raise their kids peacefully with the existing system. They believe in America, so it's better to work with them than generalizing them and attacking them."
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