Cab driver sues city, Austin police officers after attack
The suit alleges that the officers forced the cab driver to take a belligerent man home, who ended up beating him
By Ciara O'Rourke
AUSTIN — A cab driver is suing the city of Austin and several officers after an attack by a drunk man who officers forced him to take home, a lawsuit filed in federal court Friday alleges.
Cab driver Akbar Amin-Akbari is seeking an unspecified amount in damages in the suit, which names the city and officers Craig Smith, Joseph Brown, Russell Smith, Noel Guerin and Brandon Bullock as defendants. The suit also names "John Doe officers" that Amin-Akbari hasn't been able to identify.
According to the suit, the officers flagged down Amin-Akbari's taxi cab in downtown Austin on an early Friday morning in June 2011 and started dragging a large, tall and obviously drunk man who couldn't walk on his own toward it.
The suit identifies the man as Dustin Christopher Rowden, 27 , and says Rowden was resisting officers, who had taken him from a bar fight.
Amin-Akbari told the officers he couldn't take Rowden in his cab because he was so drunk and disorderly, but officers ordered him to do so, the suit says. When Rowden twice tried to flee the cab, the officers pushed him back in.
When Amin-Akbari said he couldn't take Rowden because he didn't think he would be able to pay for the ride, the officers ordered the driver to take Rowden to his home near William Cannon Drive, the suit says. As Amin-Akbari was driving, it says, Rowden shouted threatening racial slurs at the Iranian-born driver. Rowden then started to pound Amin-Akbari over the head and yanked his ponytail back so Amin-Akbari couldn't see where he was driving, according to the suit.
Rowden then grabbed the steering wheel, the suit says, and told Amin-Akbari he was going to kill him. When the man let go of the wheel, it says, Amin-Akbari exited the highway and pulled into a convenience store parking lot, where he got out and called police. Rowden exited the car and banged Amin-Akbari on the head, knocking the phone out of his hand, according to the suit. When he kicked the driver in the knee, it says, Amin-Akbari fell to the ground before three men rushed to pull Rowden from the driver.
Amin-Akbari has also sued Rowden in state district court, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is representing Amin-Akbari, and the man faces felony criminal charges in the attack.
The Police Department issued a statement Monday saying that it is aware of the lawsuit but has not had an opportunity to review it in detail. The statement says the department won't comment further on the incident, citing pending litigation.
According to court records, Rowden has a hearing Thursday on counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and injury to a child, elderly or disabled individual.
Amin-Akbari walks with a cane due to a disability that limits his mobility, according to the lawsuit. He was 64 at the time of the incident.
Jail records show that Rowden was also arrested in Hays County in late April on a driving while intoxicated charge, for which an arraignment is scheduled for June 28.
Amin-Akbari sustained severe head injuries and vision damage, the suit says, and couldn't drive for a month while he was recovering. He has returned to work but only drives during the day.
"I still have nightmares about it and am afraid he will find me and attack me again," a news release from the Texas Civil Rights Project quotes Amin-Akbari as saying.
"The City of Austin allows taxi cab drivers to refuse rides if they believe the rider is behaving in a disorderly manner or the safety of the driver or cab is at risk," the suit says. "In denying Mr. Amin-Akbari his right to refuse to give a ride to an intoxicated, disorderly and threatening man, the defendant officers wrongly and unlawfully prevented him from accepting business from other paying customers that night and deliberately placed him in harm's way."
According to city code, cab drivers can refuse service in some circumstances, including if they think the person is disorderly or if they will put the taxicab or driver's safety at risk.
Copyright 2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune News Service