HOUSTON - Houston police are asking for your help finding a man they say is responsible for a hate crime on a Lyft driver.
The alleged attack happened in July, but assault charges were brought against the suspect, Matthew Dunn, 39, Thursday. He faces enhanced punishment for selecting a victim based on prejudice against a group identified by race, religion or national origin, under Texas law.
That driver doesn't want to be identified because the man he says attacked him has not yet been arrested. He says he just started driving for Lyft, and it was just his third trip, but now, he says never again.
That driver says the confrontation with the suspect was a strange one. He says Dunn tried to befriend him at first, saying they should stick together and go against the world. The driver believes Dunn was trying to entice him.
He says Dunn then started making fun of his religion and got aggressive. The driver eventually told him to get out of the car, and that’s when he says Dunn attacked him.
“He was like, 'God sent me to rip your head from your body and make our world safe.' As soon as I heard this, I reached for my door to get out. He grabbed my hair, pulled me back and started choking me with his left arm and punching me with his right. Saying, 'I'm going to kill you all,'" the driver said.
"He started hitting me, and I punched him with my left hand. So in a millisecond, I got time, and I opened my door. I tried to run. I unhooked my belt, and he grabbed my shirt from the back and he was pulling me. As he was pulling me, I used my force, and the shirt tore in three pieces; one was in his hand. And I came out. As soon as he saw I was out of the car, he left the car, and he was coming around to get me. But when he was in the middle, I sat back, I threw it in drive and cleared the scene.”
He says he managed to get Dunn out of the car and drive away, and he's thankful it wasn't any worse.
“His plan was to kill me. And he was trying. He was trying to rip my head with his nails. He was punching. I don’t know if he got any weapons on him at that time. Any knife or anything. It could go south-side very easy," the driver said.
District Attorney Kim Ogg says it’s important to send a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, some people will take that out of context, and it will bring an entire community’s fear out. And I think that’s why it’s so important that the DA make a statement and file these cases as hate crimes and not just assaults," Ogg said.
Ogg says Dunn has a previous assault charge, and may even be facing an additional assault charge from that night from a confrontation with a security officer.
That driver says he has since quit his job. If you have any information about Dunn’s whereabouts, you’re asked to call Crime Stoppers at (713)-222-TIPS.
Lyft has also released the following statement:
"These allegations are extremely upsetting. There is absolutely no place for such behavior, especially not on the Lyft platform. As soon as we were made aware of this incident, we immediately deactivated the passenger’s account and reached out to the driver to offer our assistance and support. Lyft has a strict anti-discrimination policy, and we are dedicated to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive community. We expect anyone using Lyft to treat others with respect. We stand ready to assist authorities in this case."
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