Police Seek Passengers Who Burned Cabbie
HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) _ A cab driver was reported in serious condition after being set afire by two passengers and left on a street.
The driver, Mary Clarke, managed to reach a phone Thursday despite serious burns on her face and chest and place a desperate call to her dispatcher, said Tooraj Moradi, vice president of AM-PM Taxi Co.
″She called on the phone with a broken voice and crying and said she was burned,″ Moradi said. ″She was at the same time screaming at some people, ‘Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.’ ″
Ms. Clarke, 45, of Los Angeles, was in serious condition with burns on her face, neck, arms and chest, and some internal injuries from inhaling flames, said Nancy Hill, spokeswoman for Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
According to Deputy Dave Hogen, the cab had stopped at a traffic light in Hawthorne when the men jumped out of the back and shoved their way into the front seat, Ms. Clarke between them.
″They poured a flammable liquid over her head and they pushed her out of the car and set her on fire,″ the deputy said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies found the cab abandoned not far from where Ms. Clarke was dumped, and were combing the communities south of downtown Los Angeles for her attackers, said Sgt. Ron Bailey.
″It appears to be a robbery, but we don’t know how much money was taken at this point,″ Bailey said.
Moradi said the men called the cab company and asked to be taken a section of Compton, 15 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, repeating a trip Ms. Clarke had driven for the same men about an hour earlier.
″We just think that it could have been drug-related,″ Moradi said. ″The place that she took them before is really a drug nest. There are lots of heavy drugs being traded around that area.″
Moradi said the dispatcher had warned Ms. Clarke to be careful because on the first trip, the men said they would pay with a $100 bill.
″Usually the dispatcher will assume that means they want to rob the driver, knowing that the driver will have change,″ he said.