Ajaz Husain's cab in downtown Yellowknife. Caitrin Pilkington/Cabin Radio
A man spat at a Yellowknife taxi driver then sprayed them with a substance believed to be bear spray after an argument early on Monday morning, RCMP said.
Ajaz Husain, the driver in question, is already back at work after a brief visit to the city’s Stanton Territorial Hospital, but says he’s still experiencing pain and side effects from the incident.
“My skin and my eyes still hurt… but I am OK, I haven’t lost any senses,” said Husain.
“When it first happened, it was very, very upsetting for me.”
An RCMP press release reports the incident occurred at 3am at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Forrest Drive, and states officers are in the process of using surveillance footage to try to track down the man.
Police describe him as between 16 and 20 years of age, approximately 5 ft 5 in, and wearing black pants, a black hat and a black hooded sweatshirt.
Husain says he recognized the perpetrator after previous rides in which the man had refused to pay his fare upon arrival. The altercation began when Husain asked for payment up front, he said, after which the passenger became irate and struck the vehicle.
Husain said he drove away but returned to the same area for gas later that evening, where he alleges the man sprayed him through the open driver’s-side window and fled.
“He came and opened the spray at my eyes, my face… luckily, because I was wearing glasses, not all of the chemical went into my eyes. But it was all over the inside of the car,” he said.
Husain says he initially struggled to breathe and was in a lot of pain, but was able to wash a little of the substance away with a bottle of water and call 9-1-1. He was rushed to hospital, where he recovered enough to give a statement to police.
“If I died, if I lost my eyes… it’s not just me, it’s thinking he could do this to someone else, if he is not prosecuted,” Husain said.
The taxi driver said he has never experienced anything like this in the year and a half he’s been driving a cab in the city.
“Most of the other drivers, other customers, everyone is very nice,” he said.
RCMP believe a bystander may have filmed Monday’s assault. Police asked anyone with a video of the incident to call the Yellowknife detachment at (867) 669-1111 or get in touch anonymously.