Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Punched Because He ‘Looked Middle Eastern’

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A Navy officer punched a cab driver in the face and told police he did it because he thought the cabbie was "possibly a Muslim," the cabbie claims in court.

Avtar Singh sued the United States on Dec. 26, in Federal Court. The United States is the only defendant.

Singh is a naturalized U.S. citizen from India. He says he picked up Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Blackwell and a woman at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 20, 2013, at a bar in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. Blackwell was wearing dress blues.

Singh drove them to a Hilton hotel, and the woman paid and tipped him. Blackwell, however, stayed in the back seat "making some unintelligible sounds," Singh said.

Blackwell finally got out of the back seat, on the driver's side, slammed the door and then without a word, "punched his right fist through the driver's side cab window, breaking the glass and striking Singh hard in the forehead," the cab driver says.

Singh says he leapt out of the cab and asked Blackwell what was wrong with him.

Again without warning, Blackwell punched him in the mouth, Singh says, and continued beating him near the hotel elevators.

Hotel security held them for police, and Blackwell told the investigating officer that he was "'in fear of my life because he [Singh] looked Middle Eastern, possibly from Iraq or Afghanistan,'" the complaint states. "Blackwell added: 'And since I was in my Navy dress blues, I thought he was possibly a Muslim extremist and wasn't sure what he was capable of. As he got closer to me, I gave him a couple of jabs and hit him in the mouth.'"

Singh says Blackwell is still on active duty and suffered no disciplinary consequences despite "a purported investigation."

He seeks damages for negligence, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Stephen Arnold.

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