An unnamed rideshare passenger has been banned from both Uber and Lyft after assaulting an Uber driver. The incident was captured on the driver’s surveillance camera and in posts to Instagram from one of the passengers.
Subhakar Khadka, 32, an Uber driver in San Francisco, picked up three passengers on Sunday, March 7 shortly after noon. When he noticed one of the female passengers was not wearing a mask, he asked her to put one on. When she responded that she did not have one, he drove to a nearby gas station so her friend, who was wearing a mask, could buy her one.
When the friend returned, the other two passengers had started taunting Khadka, berating him for picking them up, and using racial slurs. Khadka told the women he was ending the ride, but the passengers refused to exit the vehicle. The woman sitting behind Khadka reached over him, ripped his mask off, and grabbed his phone. She also pulled down her mask, coughed in Khadka’s face, saying “I got corona.” In surveillance footage, you can hear Khadka say, “You don’t touch my property.”
The women eventually exited the vehicle, but the incident continued when one of the passengers reached into an open window and sprayed what police believe to be pepper spray into the vehicle and toward the driver. The spray left a blue residue in the vehicle, for which Uber gave Khadka $120 to get his car cleaned.
Local police are investigating the incident. Khadka believes he was targeted because he is South Asian. In an interview with The Washington Post he said, “If I was another complexion, I would not have gotten that treatment from them. The moment I opened my mouth to speak, they realized I’m [not] one of them, so it’s easy for them to intimidate me.”
According to one of the passengers, who posted her own videos of the incident to Instagram, “It’s always two sides to the story and [there] was a reason why he only cropped the video to 40 seconds and sent it to the news. He never wanted to show y’all what he did that [led] up to that.” She claims the incident started because the driver tried to force them to exit on the freeway.
Since the video was posted, both Uber and Lyft have banned the rider from their apps, with the reasoning that her behavior toward the driver was unacceptable. In response to the video and Uber’s response with the $120, Cyan Banister, a venture capitalist and early Uber investor, started a GoFundMe for Khadka, with the goal of raising $20,000 and pledging to match the $20,000 to assist with legal fees. As of March 11, the campaign exceeded $55,000.