Police: Vicious beating of cab driver was a hate crime

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- When Auburn police asked a local cab driver to take a drunk man home, they had no idea he would soon become the victim of a vicious hate crime.

Jamie Larson has been arrested 19 times over the years for offenses ranging from assault to domestic violence to drugs. Now police say Larson can add a hate crime to the list.

Police say Larson insulted and then beat a cab driver simply because he thought the man was Arab. It turns out he's actually Indian and a devout Sikh.

"There have been beatings, shootings, arsons, in some cases killings of people who are Muslims themselves or are perceived to be Muslim," said Arsalan Bukhari of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Bukhari said he's deeply troubled by this attack and others directed against Muslims and Arabs.

"We're seeing a spike in these crimes, especially in the last year, and most specifically in the last two months," he said.

Auburn police first picked up Larson outside a Fred Meyer store. Management told them he seemed drunk and wouldn't leave, even after he fell into bushes in the parking lot.

Officers called a cab, and the driver agreed to take Larson to his home in Federal Way. While they were driving, Larson made "racial comments" to the driver, according to court documents.

Things took a turn for the worse when the driver reached Larson's home. The victim said Larson "ripped part of his beard off his face" and then "punched him in the face and body repeatedly," according to the documents. Witnesses called the attack "savage."

While Larson sits in jail awaiting his next court date, Bukhari is trying to set the record straight about who Muslims are and asking people to speak out about the hate crimes and bias the religion faces.

"They want to come forward and make sure that their neighbors know that these events are not relegated to Florida or California. They are happening right here in the state of Washington," he said.

Auburn police say they will sometimes call cabs for people as a courtesy, but it's up to the discretion of the officer. They point out that the cab driver agreed to take the fare and the passenger showed no signs of being a threat to others.