NEW YORK – A drunken passenger riding in a New York City taxi cab attacked the driver after asking him if he was Muslim, police said Wednesday.
The driver told police that when he answered yes, Michael Enright pulled out a folding hand tool, reached into the front seat and slashed him.
Enright was arrested Tuesday night on charges including attempted murder as a hate crime, said Deputy Inspector Kim Royster, a New York Police Department spokeswoman.
The driver was treated for cuts to the throat, upper lip, forearm and thumb, Royster said.
The 21-year-old Enright, of suburban Brewster, N.Y., was expected to appear Wednesday in court in Manhattan. The name of his lawyer was not immediately available.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance identified the victim as Ahmed H. Sharif, a yellow cab driver for 15 years. In a news release, the labor group noted that the incident occurred amid tension over plans for a new Islamic cultural center and mosque in Lower Manhattan near ground zero.
"I feel very sad," the release quoted Sharif as saying. In the current climate, he added, "All drivers should be more careful."
Police said the mosque wasn't mentioned during the incident that began at about 6 p.m. Tuesday when Enright hailed the cab at East 24th Street and Second Avenue.
Enright was carrying a tool called a Leatherman and, after the exchange about the driver being Muslim, turned it on him, police said. The driver fended him off, then tried to lock him inside the cab and drive to a police station, they said.
The suspect jumped out a rear window at East 40th Street and Third Avenue, police said. An officer there noticed the commotion, found Enright slumped on the sidewalk and arrested him.
A case for the tool was found inside the cab, but the tool itself was missing, police said.