AUSTIN -- A taxi cab driver is suing the City of Austin and five Austin Police Department officers.
He says the officers forced him to transport an intoxicated, violent man who later assaulted him. The cabbie wants to stop officers from using taxis to send drunk people home.
Akbar Amir-Akbari, 66, has lived in Austin since 1972 and driven a cab for close to 30 years. He uses a cane to get around and says June 10, 2011 was the most frightening night of his life.
“It was the longest period of suffering in my life,” Amir-Akbari said.
Monday June 10 he and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a federal lawsuit against Austin police officers Craig Smith, Joseph Brown, Russell Smith, Noel Guerin, and Brandon Bullock, as well as the City.
The lawsuit claims officers flagged down Amir-Akbari at Trinity and 7th Street at around midnight.
Amir-Akbari says they dragged Dustin Christopher Rowden to the cab and put him inside. Rowden had been kicked out of a bar for fighting.
A city ordinance says cab drivers can only refuse to transport a person if that person is disorderly, engaged in unlawful conduct, has no ability to pay the fare or puts the safety of the driver or cab at risk.
Amir-Akbari claims this incident was not the first time APD officers have forced him to drive a drunk home.
The cab driver says that night while going down I-35, Rowden began punching him in the back of the head, trying to crawl into the front seat.
“He just was yelling and screaming,” Amir-Akbari said. “He pulled my hair, twisted around his hand my ponytail and pulled me back so far and to the right that I could not see my front as I was driving.”
Amir-Akbari says he managed to pull into a convenience store parking lot, jumped out and called police. He says that's when Rowden attacked him again, smashing his cell phone and knocking him to the ground.
“I was actually crawling to get up, and he tried to grab me,” Amir Akbari said. “Three Hispanic people with a pickup truck was parked on the side of that convenience store. One of them came to my aid.”
Police arrested Rowden and Amir-Akbari refused to go to the hospital saying he couldn't afford the bill.
“This is a manifestation of how bad and ill-conceived and dangerous this policy is, that you can subject somebody to losing their life because this is what police want to do,” said TCRP attorney Jim Harrington.
Rowden is charged with injury to a disabled person, a third degree felony.
Amir-Akbari and the TCRP have filed a lawsuit against him as well.
APD says it will not comment on pending litigation. It released the this statement Monday afternoon:
The Austin Police Department has been made aware of the lawsuit that was filed by Mr. Akbar Amin-Akbari. At this time APD has not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit in detail. Due to the pending litigation, APD will not make any further comment regarding this incident at this time.