A hard-working young man from Morris Park was struck by a New York City taxi after being refused a ride home to the Bronx.
Anthony Loreto, 22-year-old civil engineer who lives on Radcliff Avenue, was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan in critical condition after he was hit by a the taxi in front of the 18th Precinct during the early morning on Sunday, March 6.
At around 4 a.m, near the corner of 6th Avenue and 53rd Street, Loreto and three friends hailed down a taxi when its driver, 27-year-old Queens resident Mohammed Azam, told the men that he would not bring them back to the Bronx after they were already seated inside the cab.
Azam drove the four occupants to the nearby 18th Precinct to seek support from police officers who sided with the passengers, saying it was NYC law to take them where they wanted.
“We had no problem at all going to the precinct because we knew we were right and the cops would side with us,” said Frank Lembo. “After the cops told the driver he was wrong, he refused to let us back in the cab and the next thing I knew, the cab was driving right at us to leave.”
The two men tried to avoid the cab by jumping out of the way and Lembo was able to hold on to the cab, sustaining minor injuries after he fell. Loreto, who jumped on the hood of the car to avoid being hit, was thrown from the cab after Azam slammed on the brakes, resulting in major injuries.
Cops did not witness the accident and Loreto is currently in a medically induced coma in New York Presbyterian, dealing with a skull fracture and serious injuries on his right leg that will need extensive reconstructive surgery. Azam was arrested Sunday evening and brought into custody at the 18th Precinct. Bail was set at $100,000 and he is facing assault charges.
“There’s no amount of money or anything that can make up for what this guy did,” said long-time friend Joseph Hladki.
Loreto’s father, Anthony Loreto Sr., remained in the hospital all day Sunday with his family and friends to monitor his son’s condition along with doctors, whose early prognosis calls for Anthony to be hospitalized for several months.
“We have to stay strong for him, he will be fine, we know he will,” Loreto Sr. said. “
Councilman Jimmy Vacca, chair of the City Council Transportation Committee, was outraged by the incident.
“First and foremost, my prayers are with Anthony and his family,” Vacca said. “I am tired of hearing about cab drivers who refuse to leave Manhattan when passengers are entitled by law to ride anywhere in the five boroughs. I am calling on the Taxi & Limousine Commission to discipline every driver who thinks he or she can choose which laws to obey and which not to obey.”
Vacca wants anyone who encounters similar instances to report it to 311 or to www.nyc.gov/taxi.