Serpas asks N.O. cabbies to help identify driver who raped passenger

New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas is calling on the city’s taxi drivers to turn in one of their own who is accused of raping a woman near Tulane University on Thursday morning.

Serpas made the request at a news conference Friday where he stood next to a composite sketch of the man accused of the sexual assault. He said police are pursuing several leads and have good information on the man’s identity but stressed that local taxi drivers already know where to find him.

Serpas said taxi drivers should want to help police arrest the man quickly because as long as he’s free, he is a black mark for their profession.

“Cab drivers are good, professional, hardworking people … You know who this guy is,” Serpas said. “Cab drivers don’t deserve to have a cab driver like this driving a vehicle.”

According to Serpas, the 20-year-old victim was picked up by a cab drive outside of an unidentified establishment on Tchoupitoulas Street. She gave the man instructions, but then passed out in the back of the taxi because she was intoxicated, he said. When the woman awoke, the cab driver was sexually assaulting her, he said.

The cab driver eventually dropped the woman off about 3:30 a.m. Although Serpas would not confirm where the man dropped her off, a wanted poster identified the location of the rape as the 7600 block of Plum Street.

Serpas would not provide any details on whether police are reviewing security camera video from the taxi, whether they have examined the navigation system for the vehicle or any other details on the incident. He also would not release the name of the taxi company that was involved. Serpas did say that the woman sought medical treatment immediately after being dropped off by the cab driver at a location a few blocks from where she had asked to be taken.

New Orleans has been plagued by a rash of incidents involving taxi drivers as suspects and victims. In September, an American Taxi driver was arrested after a woman told authorities that he picked her up in New Orleans and raped her in a Jefferson Parish apartment while she was intoxicated. However, when the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating the incident, they found inconsistencies in the woman’s story, and she later decided not to press charges against the man.

Police also have investigated three homicides involving cab drivers in the past year, with the most recent one leaving Sheicho Delbar, 35, dead last month. However, shortly after that homicide, which outraged taxi drivers, police arrested another taxi driver for lying about being robbed and almost burned alive. In that incident, police said that Charles Octanel concocted a story to hide the fact that he burned his own car to collect insurance money.

In Octanel’s case, police arrested him after reviewing footage from a security camera in his car. Due to new rules in New Orleans, taxi drivers are required to have panic buttons, GPS systems and security cameras in their vehicles.