Another passenger, Arna Kimiai, 24, has communicated through her attorney that she is expected to turn herself in to authorities “soon,” according to police. A third woman has yet to be publicly identified in the alleged assault of Uber driver Subhakar Khadka, 32, on Sunday.
Lt. Tracy McCray of the San Francisco Police Department’s Robbery Detail denounced the actions of the three suspects and urged Kimiai “to do the right thing and turn herself in to the nearest law enforcement agency.”
“The behavior captured on video in this incident showed a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” McCray said in a statement. “We take this conduct very seriously in San Francisco, and we’re committed to ensuring that justice is done in this case.”
The search for the Uber passengers over the viral incident comes at a time when violent conflicts over mask mandates have become commonplace as governments and companies try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Some have been stabbed and others have even died over disagreements about the safety mandates.
As The Washington Post reported this week, Khadka noticed that one of the three women he picked up on Sunday afternoon was not wearing a mask and asked her to wear one. But after he pulled into a gas station so that one of her friends could buy her a mask, the women started taunting and berating Khadka, according to videos posted by one of the passengers to social media.
As her friend returned with a mask, the maskless passenger said she refused to wear it.
“F--- the mask,” the woman said.
Then one of the women ripped off her mask and coughed on him several times.
“And I got corona,” another passenger said, laughing.
The woman who had coughed then grabbed the driver’s phone and tore his mask off his face. At that point, Khadka said he was ending their trip and asked them to leave his car.
“You can get out. Please. I don’t want to drive you. Please get out,” he said, according to the passenger’s videos. “I’m confirming it the last time. I’m going home, you are free to get out of my car.”
The three women, however, weren’t done belittling the driver. After Khadka told them they shouldn’t touch his property, the maskless passenger sitting directly behind him replied, “You were going to kick us out in the middle of nowhere. Are you stupid?”
According to police, when the women finally left his car, one of the passengers “reached into an open window and sprayed what is believed to be pepper spray into the vehicle and toward the driver.”
Khadka, who immigrated to the United States from Nepal nearly a decade ago and sends money back to his family, recounted to KPIX that the spray was so suffocating that he had to get out of his car, which was stained with a blue residue.
“I never said anything bad to them. I never cursed, I was not raised that way,” he told the outlet. “I don’t hit people. I am not raised that way, so they were not getting out of my car.”
Later one of the women admitted in a live stream posted to Twitter that she did assault the driver, conceding that her actions were “disrespectful” and “could have been avoided.”
“All I did was smack — take his mask off and cough a little bit, but I don’t even have corona,” she said.
In the days since the video of the incident went viral — it’s been viewed more than 3 million times as of early Friday — Uber and Lyft have banned the maskless passenger who took Khadka’s mask from using their apps. A GoFundMe started by an early Uber investor on the driver’s behalf has raised more than $68,000 since Wednesday.
San Francisco police said the investigation is ongoing.