When two young men ran from Iwowari Wright’s taxi van after one of their credit cards was declined, she was resigned to accepting the loss of a $22 fare.
But before she got a chance to leave the University Village neighborhood where she dropped off the pair, they returned to demand the declined card and wound up beating Wright as she screamed for help.
“These guys could have killed me if God was not with me,” Wright said a day after the attack.
The two – Sung Wong Chung, 22, of the 1100 block of West 14th Place, and Alexander Choi, 19, of the 3100 block of West Medill Avenue – were ordered held on $125,000 bond each for allegedly beating and robbing Wright early Saturday morning.
They were both charged with felony aggravated robbery and aggravated battery of a taxi driver.
Shortly before 2:30 a.m., Wright stopped at 15th Street and Aberdeen where Chung and Choi, who were passengers of the taxi, requested to be dropped off, she said.
One of the men handed Wright what appeared to be a Chase credit card. But when she called a dispatcher get approval of the charge, the dispatcher told her it had been declined and was possibly fraudulent, Wright said.
At this, the men jumped out of the van and began to flee. Wright took a few minutes to report the skipped fare.
“Dispatch told me to just let it go,” said Wright, who drives a white Toyota van for City Service Taxi Association.
But within a moment, she said, the two had returned.
One of the men pulled her out of the van while the other rummaged through the front passenger seat.
“I was screaming, ‘Somebody help me! They’re going to kill me!’” said Wright, 56.
One of the men grabbed Wright’s phone, which she held with a cord around her wrist, and began beating her with it, twirling it around each time he struck her.
On Sunday afternoon, Wright still had a bruise on her right wrist. Her right ankle was also swollen, she said.
A witness heard her pleas and flagged down police officers and told them the attackers had fled into a nearby building, a police report shows. Police found the pair in a stairwell. They were taken into UIC police custody and then to the Harrison District station for processing.
The suspects' private attorney, Mike Johnson, told Cook County Judge Jackie Portman that the two have no criminal records.
Citing statements made in court, a previous report indicated incorrectly that the pair were students at UIC, but the school officials Monday said that neither man had ever been enrolled at the university.
Several of the suspects' family members sat in the court room as a prosecutor described the charges.
Johnson declined comment to reporters.
Choi is a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an school spokeswoman said. Chung, a native of South Korea and a student at another local school, asked police officers that the Korean Consulate be contacted.
Both suspects are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 25.
Wright, a native of Nigeria, is among a small number of licensed female cabdrivers in Chicago. City data shows there are about 120 female licensed cabdrivers out of about 12,000 taxi drivers -- or 1 percent.
Wright has been driving a taxi for seven years, and often works through the night for 12 to 14 hours at a time.
Weekend nights are most lucrative for cabdrivers, said Wright, who sends some of her earnings to Nigeria, where her two children live.
Like other women who drive cabs for a living, Wright said she has dealt with her fair share of sexual harassment from male customers.
“You have to talk calm and nice and take him to his destination,” Wright said. “These are the types of things we have to deal with.”
Wright expects to stay home from work for a few days to heal from the attack. Until then, she will not be able to earn an income.
“I don’t know what I’ll do,” Wright said. “God is going to have to provide, I guess.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times