Juneau taxi driver severely beaten, robbed, left bleeding

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Police are searching for a suspect or suspects today who severely beat and robbed a taxi driver before stealing his cab and leaving him bleeding on the ground.

A man, 45, who drives for Cabco and whose name was not released, was found by a passerby around 10:30 p.m. Monday in the Jordan Creek Center area. He was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital where he was treated for a closed-head injury and general trauma to his head and face, said Marijo Toner, hospital spokeswoman. A closed-head injury is a blow that doesn't break the skin or skull, and can range in seriousness from a bump to a severe concussion, Toner said. She said the man was released this morning in good condition.

The man's cab was recovered near Park Place Condominiums in the Mendenhall Valley around 8 a.m. today.

Police released very few details of the case.

"This just happened and we are still asking questions and trying to piece together exactly what happened," said Sgt. John Boltjes. "Until we know that and what we are dealing with we're not really releasing any information."

Cabco supervisors were unavailable for comment on the incident by the Empire's midday deadline.

Boltjes declined comment on whether a weapon was used in the assault, how much money or property was stolen from the driver, how many people assaulted him and whether police believe the suspect or suspects live near where the cab was found.

Fellow cabby Dan Vernetti, who said he was a friend of the victim, said today the beating could be financially devastating for the driver.

"He had to get seven staples in his head so he can't work - not for awhile," said Vernetti. "He was trying to make rent money. I don't know how he and his wife are going to do it now. We (cab drivers) don't get unemployment when we can't work. She works during the day to help out, but they have kids. It's just terrible."

Boltjes said there's no reason to suspect cab drivers are being targeted, but police don't know whether those responsible knew the victim.

Vernetti said cabbies are nervous.

"We're all kind of shook up," he said. "It really makes me nervous because you never think of this happening in Juneau. We all drive around feeling comfortable, but you know, you never know what's out there - people on drugs and other things - you just never know what might happen to you."

Melanie Plenda can be reached mplenda@juneauempire.com.

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