Two women facing charges for allegedly harassing Uber driver in mask dispute

Driver Subhakar Khadka says he canceled an Uber ride after a passenger refused to wear a mask. The tense conflict that followed was recorded on the driver's dashcam.

Posted: Mar 12, 2021 3:53 PM
Updated: Mar 12, 2021 5:30 PM

When Subhakar Khadka immigrated to California seven years ago, he had his sights set on a simple life with simple goals: Earn a living so that his family in Nepal can join him in the United States.

But to make his dream a reality, he became an Uber driver, and he's had to handle some difficult situations, he told CNN.

Khadka, 32, recently shared a 42-second dashcam video of a confrontation he had with three female customers inside his car. He said the dispute began over the women's refusal to wear face masks.

San Francisco Police have identified two of the three women in the car as Arna Kimiai, 24, and Malaysia King, 24.

King has been identified as the woman in a red outfit seen on the far left of the video, while Kimiai has been identified as the woman on the far right, directly behind Khadka in the video, Adam Lobsinger, public information officer with the San Francisco Police Department, told CNN.

In the video, the woman identified as Kimiai takes her face mask off, yanks Khadka's face mask off his face, coughs in his direction and attempts to take away his cell phone. Meanwhile, the woman identified as King, seen with her mask below her face, announces that she has the coronavirus.

Police officers from the Las Vegas Police Department apprehended King Thursday for assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery, conspiracy and violation of health and safety code, according to a statement from the San Francisco Police Department.

Kimiai 'remains outstanding at this time, but communicated through her legal counsel late this afternoon to the San Francisco Police Department of her intent to turn herself in soon,' the police statement said on Thursday.

SFPD said the charges against Kimiai would be made public when she is taken into custody or turns herself in.

CNN has made repeated efforts to reach King and Kimiai for comment and has not heard back. CNN has also tried to reach Kimiai's attorney. It's unclear if King has an attorney at this time.

Suspects fled the scene

Khadka says he picked up the three women in San Francisco on Sunday, March 7 around 12:45 p.m. He soon noticed that one of the passengers was not wearing a mask, so he stopped the ride a few minutes later, according to Officer Robert Rueca of the SFPD. Khadka told CNN that he stopped the car to allow the maskless passenger to enter a gas station and buy a mask, which she did.

But Khadka said that by that point he had tired of the passengers' taunting behavior. When the woman returned to the car from the gas station, he told the passengers he was ending the ride -- that he was going home. That announcement, he said, made the passengers angrier.

In the video, the woman identified as Kimiai can be seen sitting directly behind Khadka, and rips her mask off and coughs in his direction.

'F*** the mask,' she says. Meanwhile, the woman in a red outfit, identified as King, can be heard saying, 'And I got corona,' while pulling her mask down to her chin.

Immediately afterward, the woman behind Khadka reaches to the front seat of the car and tries to grab Khadka's cell phone.

Khadka is able to get it back from her and says, 'don't touch my property.'

In a statement to CNN, Uber said, 'In this case, we have banned all three riders and have been in contact with Mr. Khadka to offer our support.'

In May, Uber started requiring drivers to take selfies in the app to verify they are wearing a mask or face covering before they pick up riders.

Passengers are also required to confirm that they are wearing a mask or face covering before hailing a car. But there is no selfie requirement for passengers like there is for drivers. Uber relies on drivers and passengers to keep each other accountable.

Mask disputes have culminated in violent clashes throughout the pandemic.

'The violent crimes against Asian Americans is on the rise, and it's disgusting how people think it's OK to treat another person like that,' Khadka said. 'I have so many friends that have worked in convenient stores, gas stations, in this customer service business and most of them tell me the same stories.'

'I believe the way I sound, the way I look, it does play a major role over here,' he said.

In the video, the woman identified as Kimiai can be seen yanking his face mask off, ripping one of the strings that holds the mask in place, making it unwearable.

'Now you about to get beat the f*** up,' the woman identified as King says.

The confrontation lasted about 15 minutes, according to Khadka.

It's not clear what happened before or after the 42-second clip. Khadka said his dashcam records only when his car is running, and there were moments that were not recorded because he was parked and refused to drive until all the women were masked. The clip is only a portion of the video that Khadka has given to the SFPD.

Eventually, the women left Khadka's car, he said. But a person 'reached into an open window and sprayed what is believed to be pepper spray into the vehicle and towards the driver,' according to Officer Rueca. It's unclear who did this and this moment isn't captured in the 42-second video clip.

The suspects fled the scene, according to a police report, and even though an arrest has been made, the SFPD said it is still investigating the incident.

'We're glad to hear that Ms. Kimiai intends to do the right thing and turn herself in to the nearest law enforcement agency, and we hope it happens promptly,' Lt. Tracy McCray said in a police statement. 'The behavior captured on video in this incident showed a callous disregard for the safety and wellbeing of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic. We take this conduct very seriously in San Francisco, and we're committed to ensuring that justice is done in this case.'

'We need justice'

Following the confrontation, Khadka reached out to Uber to report the incident.

'The behavior seen in the video is appalling,' an Uber spokesperson said. 'As a result, the rider no longer has access to Uber. Our policy is clear: no mask, no respect, no ride.'

After he documented the incident with authorities and Uber, Khadka said he realized his car wasn't drivable.

'Anybody that gets in and puts their hand in any of the car's area and somehow wipes their hand on their nose, mouth or eyes, it's going to hurt them,' he said, referring to the pepper spray.

Khadka said he asked Uber to help pay for the cost of cleaning his car, and that the company paid him $370. Uber said it gave Khadka $250 and other financial support, and that it's up to the driver to disclose how much the company gave him.

After cleaning his car, Khadka hit the road again.

'Nobody wants to get out on Sunday and work but there I was already,' he said. 'So, I tried working, I took a couple of rides and I didn't feel that I was on my right senses so I was thinking something else and driving and that is not safe at all so I went home.'

Khadka said he hasn't been back on the road since last Sunday's incident.

As the video started circulating online, Khadka wanted to share what happened with his family in Nepal.

'They are family, they worry a lot,' he said. 'So I called them and I said, 'There's a video that's going out there, please don't freak out it's just for a social cause, we need justice.''

'Pandemic has hit us the same way, everywhere in the world, it's the same thing back in Nepal,' he said. 'Life is just getting normal over there, so it's been a tough time for me, but I have to work.'

Khadka said he shared the video to help police identify the suspects.

'Once they are identified, once they are into police custody then we'll move forward for justice and that's it, that's what I wanted,' he said.

A GoFundMe has been started in Khadka's name.

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