Gas assault on Hamilton cabbie a hate crime, police say

A Hamilton cabbie was sprayed with gasoline on Saturday morning in an attack that police are treating as a hate crime.

3rd violent assault on a Hamilton taxi driver since mid-July

A man sprayed a cab driver with gas from a fuel pump early on Saturday morning, Hamilton police say. (Seth Perlman/AP Photo)

A Hamilton cabbie was sprayed with gasoline from a fuel pump in an attack that police are treating as a hate crime.

Around 3:15 a.m., a 50-year-old taxi driver was filling up his cab at a Pioneer gas station on Fennell Avenue East near Upper Ottawa Street.

According to Hamilton police Staff Sgt. Mark Cox, an "intoxicated" 27-year-old approached the driver and asked for a ride.

The younger man got upset with driver when he said he was off-duty, even though the 50-year-old offered to call for another cab.

Then, Cox said, "the suspect grabbed the gas hose and turned it on the cabbie and sprayed him with gasoline."

Cox said the two men had a "minor scuffle," in which the driver was able to pry the hose from the suspect.

The suspect then fled the gas station, while the cabbie, whose clothes were soaked in gasoline, found police nearby who were working on a separate investigation.

Police arrested the suspect at nearby bus stop and held him for bail.

The driver was not injured.

A 27-year-old Hamilton man faces an assault with a weapon charge in the attack. He has also been charged with breach of recognizance for allegedly drinking alcohol in spite of bail terms forbidding him to do so.

Cox said police have flagged the assault as a hate bias crime because of comments the suspect uttered during the incident.

The assailant, Cox said, spouted insults about "the immigrant population of Canada" but didn't use language that referred to the driver's background specifically.

Cox said he didn't know the driver's ethnicity, but said he is a "member of the racialized community."

String of attacks

The incident is the third in a string of violent assaults on Hamilton taxi drivers this summer.

On July 16, a passenger allegedly assaulted driver Anwar Sajad, 55, outside a townhouse complex on Limeridge Road. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken pelvis and a broken leg in the incident.

In addition, on Aug. 24, a man exiting a bar near the intersection of Kenilworth Avenue North and Dunsmure Road slashed a cabbie on his leg and his arm.

The attacks have prompted cries for greater driver safety.

"I'm disgusted about this," Asif Abbas, a Hamilton taxi driver who has been vocal about the dangers cabbie face, told CBC Hamilton in the wake of the Aug. 24 slashing. "Things are getting out of control."