Witnesses sought in cab shooting

Taxi drivers discuss options for protection after attack

June 11, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun reporter

Taxi drivers at BWI Marshall Airport are looking for options to protect themselves after one of them was shot in the stomach during an attempted robbery.

The drivers who gathered Monday to plead for witnesses to come forward said they don't feel safe after last Wednesday's shooting of Aston Beadle, 63, who was ambushed as he arrived home in the Woodlawn area after work. Beadle was being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and is expected to survive.

"It's terrible that something like this would happen to someone just trying to make a living," said Russell Brannan, who has been driving cabs for 32 years. "Nobody expects to encounter what he did."

Brannan couldn't remember any other incidents like last week's, when a male teenager pointed a handgun at Beadle's head as he got out of his cab and demanded money. When Beadle said he had none, the assailant lowered the gun, shot Beadle in the stomach and fled, Baltimore County police said.

Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey said it appears the gunman was waiting for the victim.

"This is something we don't want to happen to our drivers," said Saeid Esfarjani, chief executive officer of BWI Airport Taxi, which operates the 375 taxis based there. Esfarjani said robbers mistakenly believe that drivers carry large amounts of cash, but all airport taxi drivers accept credit cards, and most customers pay that way.

Driving for the airport is considered one of the safest jobs for a taxi driver, several drivers said. Because they pick up only at the airport, passengers are screened by airport security and generally pose no threat.

"We have not had a problem with taxi drivers being assaulted or held up at the airport," said Cpl. Jonathan Green of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

The shooting has some drivers questioning whether they are sufficiently protected. Brannan advocates for taxi drivers to carry guns.

"Why shouldn't you be allowed to carry a weapon if you carry cash?" he said. "It's your life."

He said that companies don't want drivers to carry guns because of liability concerns.

Michael Gervis, a driver for 21 years, supports letting drivers have guns.

"The police cannot drive behind every cab," he said. Maybe drivers would be safer "if they allow us to carry the gun."

Esfarjani said that's not a decision for taxicab companies to make.

"This is a legal issue," he said. "As a company, if it's safety for the drivers, we do not mind it, but it's not something we can decide yes or no."

Others believe that guns would do nothing.

"There is no option" for better safety, said Alex Prodilaylo, a cabdriver for 20 years. Guns won't guarantee that drivers can respond more quickly to threats, he said.

To help protect drivers, Esfarjani said, BWI Airport Taxi plans to train drivers to respond to robberies.

Detectives said they have few leads in Beadle's case. They urge anyone with information to call Baltimore County police at 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7-LOCKUP. Callers to Metro Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous.


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