PLEASANTON — A national civil-rights group is asking authorities to pursue hate crime charges against two San Ramon Valley men who allegeldy used slurs and beat a cabdriver.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging that the arrested men be held accountable if there was any bias motive in the attack that left 38-year-old Jaswinder Bangar with a broken tooth, bruises and stitches to his face.
Police say Bangar was called "Taliban" and "terrorist" by the men during the Thursday morning attack.
"We get involved with this any time anti-Muslim slurs are used, regardless whether the alleged victim is a Muslim himself," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
Pleasanton police arrested 33-year-old Michael Goldstein of Danville and 27-year-old Jacob Billingsley, of Alamo, on suspicion of assaulting their cabdriver. Police have also asked the district attorney's office to review the case for possible hate crime enhancements to the charges they face.
In a phone call, Billingsley said he could not comment. A call to Goldstein was not returned. Both work for a commercial real estate firm in Stockton.
Police say Goldstein and Billingsley got into a cab driven by Bangar about 1 a.m. Thursday at the Redcoats British Pub and Restaurant in downtown Pleasanton and asked to go to Blackhawk. Bangar said shortly afterwards he was punched in the back of the head and called names.
The suspects and the driver got into a heated argument about whether credit cards could be used, said Pleasanton police Lt. Darrin Davis.
Bangar said after he explained to the men that his company didn't accept credit cards, they agreed to pay cash. But, he said the passengers got angry when he didn't follow the route they suggested.
Bangar said that is when one of the men called him a terrorist and said "You are coming to kill us."
"I'm driving a taxi," he said he told them. "I'm not a Taliban and I'm not a terrorist."
Bangar, who is Sikh, said he told the men he would let them out and they could call another cab. He said they refused.
After he was punched in the back of the head, Bangar said he tried to call 911 from his cell phone, but one passenger grabbed his phone and broke it. Bangar pulled into a well-lit 7-Eleven parking lot on Santa Rita Road and Valley Avenue. When out of his van, Bangar said the men punched him and he fell to the ground. They hit him some more before fleeing, he said. A 7-Eleven employee called for help.
Officers found both men at Goldstein's home in Danville and they were arrested on suspicion of battery that caused injury and for preventing someone from using a cell phone to call 911.
Billingsley and Goldstein both bailed out of jail. A court date has not yet been set.
Hooper, the CAIR spokesman said there are cases where Sikhs, Latinos and others who look like a "stereotypical Muslim" have been subjected to anti-Muslim slurs and attacks.
"It's a recurring theme," he said. "People who are not necessarily Muslim are targeted based on the perception that they are Muslim and/or Arab."
Bangar, has been a cabdriver for a year and half, said he still has pain in his head and neck.
"They might have killed me that night," Bangar said. "God helped me that night."
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