Sikh Uber driver strangled in hate crime attack

"This assault is being investigated as a bias incident."

Photo: Sikh Coalition

Last week in Washington state, an Uber passenger was arrested for strangling his Sikh American driver during a ride. The attack is reportedly being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Hate crime charges ‘pending’ after reported strangulation of Bellingham Uber driver

22-year-old Grifin Levi Sayers allegedly attacked his Uber driver -- who is Indian and wears a turban and unshorn hair in observant of his Sikh faith -- in the early morning hours of December 5 in Bellingham.

At the end of the ride, Sayers became verbally and physically abusive against the driver, making racist accusations about his appearance and Indian heritage before grabbing the driver's throat.

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While strangling him, Sayers made "racially biased comments about the victim's 'dark skin,' the fact he was from India and the turban he was wearing," according to Bellingham Police.

The driver was able to exit the car, leave it behind on foot and call 911.

Sayers was arrested and booked on suspicion of second-degree assault and a failure-to-appear warrant for fourth-degree assault. He was released on $13,000 bail.

"This assault is being investigated as a bias incident, as Sayers maliciously and intentionally assaulted the victim because of Sayers' perception of the victim's race, national origin and religion," Lt. Claudia Murphy tells The Bellingham Herald. "Additional charges by the prosecutor's office for (a) hate crime offense are pending."

The driver, who wishes to remain anonymous, has retained the Sikh Coalition for pro bono legal consultation and to raise awareness around the incident.

"This was very clearly a hate crime under the definition of the law," says Amrith Kaur, Legal Director of the Sikh Coalition. "The attacker knew his Uber driver was Sikh, and he chose to both physically and verbally attack him because of it. We are thankful that the Bellingham Police Department are investigating bias as a motivator, and we trust that the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will appropriately charge him with a hate crime moving forward."

More here: Justice for a Sikh Uber Driver in Washington

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