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California maskless passenger coughs on, assaults driver

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An Uber driver in San Francisco was assaulted by a woman who refused to wear a mask in an incident captured on a now-viral video that he says was racially motivated.

Police said they are investigating.

The woman was with two other women wearing masks when Subhakar Khadka, 32, picked them up Saturday in the city’s Bayview District. The video shows the three women in the back seat berating Khadka, using profanities while the car is stopped on the shoulder of a highway. At one point, the woman without a mask coughs on him, grabs his cellphone from the center dash area and rips off his facemask.

Khadka told KPIX-TV Tuesday that after the women got out of the car, the woman pepper-sprayed him through the front passenger window.

Khadka says he had to get out of his car because it became difficult to breathe.

“I never said anything bad to them, I never cursed, I was not raised that way,” Khadka said.

Khadka said he believes he was attacked because he is a South Asian immigrant. He came to the U.S. eight years ago and works hard to support his family in Nepal.

“If I was another complexion, I would have not gotten that treatment from them,” he said. “The moment I opened my mouth to speak, they realized I’m not among one of them, so it’s easy for them to intimidate me.”

Uber confirmed the incident and in an email said “the behavior seen in the video is appalling.”

Both Uber and Lyft have suspended the woman from using their services.

San Francisco police are investigating the incident and said the driver was able get his phone back from the woman, who has not been identified.

They haven’t said if the attack is being investigated as a hate crime. But the it follows a string violent attacks against Asians Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area and other places.

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