ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — Farhan Hassan has been a driver for Yellow Taxi in town for three years. Seated with a smile in the front seat of his cab, he talks about how he loves his job and appreciates his customers.
“Mostly it’s good, yeah, it’s good. Very good people,” he said of his passengers.
The one person he for sure doesn’t feel that way about is Zachary Degraw who according to court documents hopped into his cab last month along with a woman, headed to a bar down Highway 23.
“First time he comes (in) I say, ‘Hi, how you doing guys?’ And the lady she say ‘good,’ but he never answered back,” Hassan said.
Court documents state Degraw’s hands did all the talking. Seated behind Hassan, the documents state Degraw wrapped his arm around Hassan’s neck and started choking him while driving. Hassan estimates they going about 45 miles per hour down the road.
“I’m going that side, that side, that side, that side,” he said explaining how he started swerving. He said he grabbed his radio so his dispatchers could hear the struggle. He said he then hit the brakes, hopped out of the car, and called 911.
“It wasn’t an overreaction, it was no excuse, you can’t put your hands on somebody,” said Haji Yussuf, executive director of MIDnimo USA and a community activist.
When questioned by deputies about what happened, court documents state Degraw replied, “Well, he is Muslim.”
“We’ve heard a lot of verbal assaults from a few people, not everyone in this community,” said Yussuf. “This is the first time that somebody actually put a hand on someone.”
Farhan is grateful for the other passenger who according to the court documents told investigators Degraw was racist.
Farhan said she also held Degraw back from attacking him until deputies arrived.
“This is how we change our community, standing up for what is right,” said Yussuf.
It’s also that type of customer that’s given Hassan the confidence to get back behind the wheel. He said he still gets a bit nervous when a passenger sits directly behind him, but he’s confident the majority of the people sitting in his cab aren’t out to hurt him.
“I love this job,” he said.
We reached out to Degraw’s attorney by phone and email but haven’t heard back. Hassan wanted to emphasize he’s also thankful for the deputies who quickly got to the scene.