By: Michael Pellegrini
“When I shot my first robber, I purposely shot him in the leg,” said Hans, an eleven year veteran driver with Tacoma’s Yellow Cab. “I wanted him to go to jail. So after the cops took the guy into custody, one cop – who I knew slightly – pulled me aside and told me he was mad at me. I was really shaken by this. I told him, ‘But I had to shoot him – the guy had a gun. He was going to shoot me.’ The cop just looked back at me, and said, ‘Hans, yeah, you had to shoot him. But I know your aim is better than that…’”
With cab drivers, getting robbed is unfortunately, just part of the job. In Han’s case, he’s survived eight attempted robberies. But on March 5, 1999, an apparent robbery went sour, and driver Donald Barker, 45, of Roy, became the first cabbie murdered in Tacoma in thirteen years. Barker picked up his last fare at around 8:05 p.m., at the Strap, a tavern in Spanaway. The cab was found about a half an hour later on government property near Ft Lewis.
According to Hans, since the murder, the majority of cab drivers are running scared. A few have actually quit driving; others have started carrying guns. And Many are angry.
“I was at Don Barker’s funeral,” said Don Rudy, who’s driven cab for nearly nineteen years. “The concensus of the drivers at the funeral was that they should just give us five minutes or less with the SOB that did this. Everyone’s pretty mad. But yeah, a lot are scared, too”
Adding fuel to the fire, there has been some speculation that two recent armed robberies - of cab drivers - may be linked to the murder. All of which has the cabbies spooked.
“You’ve just got to be careful,” said one driver who asked not to be identified. “It’s a dangerous business. You learn to live with it. But for now, I’m not going to drive again until after they catch this guy. Getting robbed is one thing, and I can handle that; but getting murdered is a whole different ballgame.”
“It’s still a good job,” said another driver. “If I had a choice between a cab and a convenience store, I’d pick the cab every time. At least you’re a moving target. Working in a store is a lot more dangerous. The cops don’t call them ‘Stop and Robs’ for nothing.”