By Derrick Perkins
Police officer Peter Laboy is targeting his alleged shooter’s employer, filing a lawsuit for at least $10 million against Alexandria Yellow Cab.
Laboy’s lawyer, Georgia-based David Martin, launched the litigation Monday. The complaint blasts Yellow Cab for employing taxi driver Kashif Bashir, who “posed a real and imminent threat to public safety.”
Bashir, a 27-year-old Pakistani national, allegedly shot Laboy in the head during a traffic stop at the intersection of South St. Asaph and Wilkes streets in February. Laboy was flown to a Washington hospital with grievous injuries while Bashir led police on a chase that ended in Fairfax County.
The complaint accuses Yellow Cab of failing to adequately check Bashir’s background before allowing him to operate a cab under the company’s banner. It also alleges Yellow Cab officials did not properly monitor the driver, who — according to Martin — displayed signs of mental instability, like erratic behavior and violent outbursts.
A grand jury indicted Bashir last month on charges of aggravated malicious wounding, attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. But he will undergo a mental competency hearing to determine whether he’s fit to stand trial.
The document lists Bashir’s multiple run-ins with the law — stretching back to 2004 and as recently as last year — before the shooting.
“Quite simply, this crime, this damage, this harm [and] this injury to officer Laboy would not have happened but for the acts and omission of Yellow Cab,” Martin said. “At the end of the day, they handed him the keys to a fleet of cabs and then set him loose on the streets of Alexandria.”
Martin argues that the company — had it not been negligent — would have taken Bashir off the streets long before the February confrontation with Laboy. But cab company officials disagreed in a statement released after news of the lawsuit broke.
“On behalf of Alexandria Yellow Cab, we pray for the best for officer Laboy in his recovery from this tragic incident,” reads the statement. “In regard to the allegations in the recently-filed civil lawsuit, Yellow Cab obeyed all laws and procedures in regard to Bashir, such as requiring him to be certified by the Alexandria hack office, which performs criminal background checks for the taxicab industry. Nothing in his four years with the company could have caused Yellow Cab to anticipate the tragedy that has occurred.”
Company officials also noted Bashir was off-duty when the incident occurred and was driving a vehicle not owned by Yellow Cab.
In the months since the shooting, dozens of local groups and businesses have held fundraisers for the Laboy family. Even so, Laboy faces a lifetime of expensive treatment for his injuries, Martin said.
But the lawsuit is about more than money, he said.
“This is a company that has — as a matter of practice — put on the roads, on the streets of Alexandria, drivers that it has not taken efforts to ensure are responsible and capable,” Martin said. “It hasn’t performed the minimal efforts required to ensure they’re safe and capable. Absolutely, there is a public trust element to this lawsuit.”
Suzi Laboy, wife of the 17-year veteran of the department, publicly spoke to reporters about her husband’s recovery after the grand jury indictment. She described his recovery as miraculous and said they hope he is able to return to the force.
Though the complaint describes Peter Laboy as “permanently injured,” Martin declined to go into detail about the officer’s prognosis.
“I’m going to leave that up to the doctors at this point,” he said. “We’re still in the exploratory stage on that, but obviously the injuries are going to be things that are going to affect and impact him for a lifetime.”