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Cincinnati man charged with racial abuse of Uber driver, whom he threatened with slurs and violence

WCPO michael winterman.png
Posted at 12:41 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 07:16:56-04

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati man has been charged with ethnic intimidation, criminal damaging and disorderly conduct after an Uber driver accused him of a racist assault.

Michael Winterman, who has also been banned from Uber, was “highly intoxicated” when he entered driver Abdelkadre Khamis Ahmat’s vehicle on May 28, according to Cincinnati police. Near the end of the ride, Ahmat’s GPS failed and he asked Winterman for verbal directions to his destination.

Instead of providing them, Winterman called 911 before threatening Ahmat — a Black man who came to the United States from Chad — with violence and racial slurs.

"I hope to hell you get shot," Winterman slurs in Ahmat's recording of the interaction.

At one point, Winterman exited the vehicle and began to vandalize it.

Ahmat stepped outside and attempted to stop him. Winterman punched him, fell to the ground and smeared his own blood on the window of the car.

The Cincinnati Police Department issued warrants for Winterman’s arrest on May 31, but he remained at large by Tuesday morning, when the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference to share Ahmat’s story.

One of the most frustrating details, CAIR spokesperson Whitney Siddiqi said: Winterman reported the incident to Uber, resulting in Ahmat’s account — his primary source of income — being suspended.

Siddiqi called the suspension “unconscionable” and publicly pleaded with Uber to reinstate it. The company did on Tuesday afternoon after receiving Ahmat’s video, according to a statement from Uber spokesperson Austen Radcliff.

“What is shown is appalling and unacceptable,” Radcliff wrote in an email to WCPO. "Violence and discrimination have no place on the Uber platform. We’ve been attempting to reach out to the driver to get more information since the incident was first reported to us last month. We are reactivating the driver’s account and the rider has been banned from Uber."

Stories of rideshare drivers being harassed by passengers are not uncommon. Subhakar Khadka, a San Francisco-based Uber driver, made international news in March after recording three confrontational passengers who verbally abused, assaulted and pepper-sprayed him for asking them to leave his vehicle.

The same month, the Los Angeles Times reported on an incident in which a man was caught shouting racial epithets at an Uber driver who dropped him off at Los Angeles International Airport.