Sunday, August 05, 2001

Gun-toting cab driver fighting law

He wants to be legally able to carry firearm

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Clyde Riley, 35, of Cheviot is fighting the city of Cincinnati to get a law changed to allow cab drivers to carry guns; meanwhile, he faces a charge of breaking the current law.

        He described an incident that he believes supports his protest.

        Mr. Riley said a man walked to his parked cab July 21 at Eden and Donahue in Corryville, snatched open the door, grabbed him and pulled him from his car.

[photo] Clyde Riley of Cheviot has had to remove all cab markings after a dispute with the city over his carrying a gun in his cab for protection.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        To protect himself and his passenger, Mr. Riley pulled his gun and fired two warning shots into the air. The assailant fled.

        Police arrested the suspect at 217 E. University Ave. and charged him with aggravated auto robbery and attempted auto robbery.

        The man, Isiah D. Crutcher Jr., 37, of East Clifton Avenue, Over-the-Rhine, had allegedly carjacked a Skyline cab driven by Rodney Jones, 36, of Price Hill earlier that night.

        Police said Mr. Crutcher put a choke hold on Mr. Jones while he held a gun to his right cheek. He took $150 and the car.

        A week later, Mr. Riley was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm within city limits while operating a cab. He also was charged with operating a taxicab without a legal license.

        “I think the city is just out to get me because I have had some problems with my license,” Mr. Riley said.

        His problems started in March 2000, when he was charged with aggravated menacing for allegedly pulling his gun during a dispute. He claimed a man was attacking him with a board. He was convicted and served time.

        When Mr. Riley sought to renew his licenses for Clyde University's Taxi, the city denied him.

        “I denied the license because the incident happened in a cab and because he had a gun,” said Jim Johnson, city solicitor. “This took place in an informal hearing, and he has a chance to take it to Common Pleas Court. The law specifically says taxicab drivers cannot carry guns.”

        Mr. Riley has taken a petition with 400 signatures to city hall to get the law changed. He wants taxicabs classified as private rather than public vehicles.

        “If our vehicles are classified as a private business operation, we would be able to carry guns,” Mr. Riley said. “At a time when there is this much violence on the streets, we need some kind of protection.

        “We are just ordinary guys trying to earn a living. The law says we have to pick up a person if they ask us. Some of those thugs out there don't care whether we have $5 or $500. They will try to take it.”

        Mr. Riley's protest has received some sympathy from City Hall, but no interest so far in changing the law.

        “I am not convinced that more guns on the streets is a deterrent to crime,” said Councilman Paul Booth, chairman of council's public works committee. “There is a big difference between uniformed, trained policemen with guns and ordinary citizens. I am not convinced that taxicab drivers with guns will be helpful.”

        Councilman Jim Tarbell said he sympathizes with Mr. Riley but doesn't think cab drivers with guns is a good idea.

        “That rule about cab drivers not carrying guns came from the taxicab industry,” Mr. Tarbell said. “It was accepted by the taxicab industry for their own physical well-being.

        Mr. Riley was arraigned in Hamilton County Municipal Court last week for the firing a firearm charge. He will return later this month.

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