PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Police are investigating a possible bias assault against a Lyft driver in Portland.
Officers responded to Southwest 18th Avenue and Salmon Street on the report of an assault Friday. That’s where Marla Standing-Owl says the passenger in her car began calling her names for being a trans woman and hitting her.
It was just about a year ago that Standing-Owl decided to become a Lyft driver. She told FOX 12 she lost her last job because of transphobia and thought driving for Lyft would be a safe option.
That is, until Friday night when she picked up a man near the Duniway Hotel downtown.
“His speech was highly slurred,” Standing-Owl said. “He could barely get in the car. He didn’t know where he was going.”
They made it less than a mile to Southwest 18th Avenue and Salmon Street right by the MAX stop when she says he asked her to pull over and then started yelling at her and hitting her.
“Punching me in the head and the neck and when I reached behind the seat to stop him from attacking me further, he twisted my arm back which popped,” said Standing-Owl. “As he was beating me, he was calling me an effing tranny… He gets out, he comes around the back, and starts coming toward me so I pepper-sprayed him.”
She says he continued yelling for a while and then ran off. She called 911. Now, Portland police are looking for that man who they say could face bias crime charges.
“This shouldn’t be happening. You can hate all you want, but to put your hands on someone is not right,” Standing-Owl said.
Now, she says she’s too scared to pick up passengers and that if she ever goes back to Lyft driving, she’ll only do it during the day.
She says she hopes that man is caught and that what happened here can help educate others on the discrimination and violence trans people face.
“We’re just trying to go to work like everyone else. We’re just trying to live our days and none of us chose this and to be physically and verbally attacked and made fun of every single day makes it very hard for most of us to function,” she said.
No arrests have been made at this time as the investigation continues.
Lyft released a statement to FOX 12 saying the rider has been banned from the service.
"Safety is fundamental to Lyft. What the driver described is frightening, and the rider's access to Lyft has been permanently removed. We responded immediately and have been in close contact with the driver since the incident to offer our support. We have reached out to the authorities and will continue to help in anyway we can," according to a company statement.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact Bias Crimes Detective Jeff Sharp at 503-823-9773 or at email@example.com.
“The Bureau investigates all reports of bias-motivated crimes and encourages any member of our community who is the victim of such a crime to contact law enforcement. Under Oregon law, bias crimes are defined as any criminal act that targets a victim based on the suspect's perception of the victim's race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin,” according to the Portland Police Bureau.
Anyone who is the victim of a bias crime assault or witnesses one is asked to immediately call 911. Anyone who is the victim of a different bias crime and the suspect is no longer there, such as vandalism or graffiti, is asked to call the non-emergency line at 503-823-3333.
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