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San Francisco police arrest passenger accused of attacking, coughing on Uber driver

An Uber car
An Uber driver was attacked by a passenger Sunday after ending the ride when she refused to put on a mask, according to San Francisco police.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

San Francisco police have arrested one of several women who they say assaulted an Uber driver, tearing off his mask, coughing on him and dousing him with pepper spray.

About 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Subhakar Khadka picked up three women near the intersection of San Bruno Avenue and Bacon Street in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. One of the passengers wasn’t wearing a mask, the city Police Department said in a statement, and Khadka didn’t get farther than two blocks before ending the ride because the woman refused to put one on.

In a dashboard camera video widely circulated on social media, the woman coughs on the driver and curses his mask-wearing.

“And I’ve got corona!” one of the other passengers says while pulling down her face covering.

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The driver, wearing a white surgical mask, leans back against his seat and shakes his head.

The unmasked woman reaches forward and grabs the driver’s phone, the video shows. The two struggle briefly before Khadka takes back the device. The woman then pulls off his mask and tosses it to the front of the car.

“You don’t touch my property!” Khadka says in the video, unbuckling his seat belt.

After the women exited the car, one of them pepper-sprayed Khadka through an open window before fleeing, police said.

The passenger has been banned from the Uber app, a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“The behavior seen in the video is appalling,” Uber’s statement said. “Our policy is clear: no mask, no respect, no ride.”

Las Vegas police on Tuesday arrested Malaysia King, 24, on suspicion of assault and battery, assault with a caustic chemical, conspiracy, and a violation of state health and safety codes, San Francisco police said. A second suspect, Arna Kimiai, 24, has yet to be detained but has communicated through her lawyer that she intends to surrender, according to police.

“We’re glad to hear that Ms. Kimiai intends to do the right thing and turn herself in to the nearest law enforcement agency, and we hope it happens promptly,” said Lt. Tracy McCray, who leads the San Francisco Police Department’s Robbery Detail. McCray said in a statement that the suspects had “showed a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic.”

Khadka, 32, a Nepali immigrant, told KPIX-TV that he thought he was targeted because of his race.

The video provoked a wave of condemnation for the passenger’s actions and support for the driver.

Cyan Banister, an activist and entrepreneur who was an early investor in Uber, started a GoFundMe account for Khadka. The fund had reached more than $56,000 in pledges Thursday morning, nearly tripling its goal in a day.

“Subhakar’s family isn’t with him right now and is overseas. He’s worked hard through the pandemic and this situation isn’t anything he’s ever experienced,” Banister posted. “As you can imagine, this was a horrible experience, but also a tremendously loving and supporting one, because we are all coming together to help.”

Lyft also barred the woman from its app, according to a tweet from the company.

“Although this incident did not involve the Lyft platform, the unacceptable treatment of the driver in this video compelled us to permanently remove the rider from the Lyft community,” the tweet said. “Driving in a pandemic is not easy. Please wear a mask, respect one another, and be a good person.”

In a video laced with profanities that was later posted online, the passenger defended her actions.

“All I did was take his mask off and cough a little bit, but I ain’t even have corona,” she says.

But then she expresses some remorse: “OK, I ain’t gonna lie, that was disrespectful…. It could have been avoided.”


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