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Cabdriver Slain In South Minneapolis

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Unfortunately during the early morning hours after midnight on August 8th 2003, I received one of those inevitable yet shocking calls we all avoid. My cousin was shot twice and killed as he made is last fare as a taxi driver.


Cabdriver slain in south Minneapolis

Cabdriver Mohammed Ahmed Salah

A cabdriver was shot to death Friday morning in south Minneapolis, less than a month after another cabbie was slain on the city's North Side. The cabbie was found when police responded to a report of a car accident. The cab had been driven into Phillips Park and stopped at a fence near the basketball court.

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As his shift was about to end early Friday, Mohamed Salah called his pregnant wife to tell her he had several suspicious passengers in his cab. Moments later he was shot to death.

Salah, 28, is the second cabdriver to be slain in Minneapolis in the past month. The shootings have jump-started the cabdriving community's debate over safety issues.

While most cabbies agree that partitions between driver and passengers aren't the answer, the president of a newly formed cabdrivers association that has several hundred members is asking city leaders to subsidize surveillance cameras.

A group of about 50 cabdrivers met with Mayor R.T. Rybak and Police Chief Robert Olson on Friday afternoon. While he said he was sympathetic to their needs, Rybak made it clear that public money wouldn't be provided for private businesses.

"I understand what they are going through because my parents owned a small business and they were robbed several times at gunpoint," he said. "I'm open to looking into new safety regulations as part of ongoing conversations with companies in the cabdriving community."

In 2000, New York City began requiring all cabs to have a camera or a bullet-resistant partition. That same year, following the murders of two cabdrivers, the Toronto city council required taxicabs to be equipped with emergency lights and a security camera or technology that allows a computer to locate the car.

Salah, who had worked for Red and White Taxi for two years, had recently told relatives he wanted to put a partition in his cab. Pat White, manager of the cab company, said that his heart went out to Salah's family, and that he hoped the incident would expedite any action that might make taxicabs safer.

Salah, of Minneapolis, was shot in the head about 1:30 a.m. at the intersection of 24th St. and 18th Av. S. in the Phillips neighborhood. The cab's momentum took it into a fence across the street in Phillips Park. The impact of the airbag pushed Salah's body to the back seat.

What appeared to be nearly a dozen bloody tennis shoe prints could be seen leading away from the cab. Relatives of Salah said they were told that there were three people in the cab.

Beulah McConnell, who lives across the street from the park, said she heard three shots and "then a boom and crash." As she tended to some flowers, she wondered why cabdrivers are being shot. She said it was sad to see a large group of Somalis gather at the park Friday morning.

Salah was shot at close range, but police Lt. Mike Carlson said it was unclear whether he was shot from inside or outside the cab. Investigators are pursuing a dispatch call Salah received after midnight, he said.

"We feel we have strong leads," he said.

Nearly 60 Somalis, including Salah's wife and mother, gathered in front of the Hennepin County medical examiner's office Friday afternoon. They were joined by City Council Member Dean Zimmermann, who lives about a half-block from where Salah died. He said he had talked to police and was confident that whoever was responsible for the shooting would be arrested within 24 hours.

Salah's death follows the July 10 shooting death of Ahmed Ahmed, 38, who was killed near 11th and Penn Avs. N. A man who was wanted for failing a court-ordered drug test, Sylvester L. Scott, 20, has been charged with first-and second-degree murder.

"The death of Ahmed could be seen as an aberration, but now you've had two within a month," Zimmermann said. "I think this will now shift the mood for people to look at new safety options."

Salah's wife of six months, Rukia Osman, was too distraught to talk about the shooting. She had a relative read a statement, which described how Salah worked 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. five days a week to try his best to provide for his family.

She described the final call from Salah and how he said the men asked him to drive them to different places.

"I'm asking all of Minnesota to help catch the person who did this heinous crime," she said. "I am numb."

Salah came to the United States in 1993 and became a citizen in 2002. He had told his mother he had made enough money to move the family to a different neighborhood.

"I can't control my emotions," said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center. "I don't know what to tell the family so they can make sense of it."

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