Taxi driver shot, killed in Richmond
By Karl Fischer and Tom Lochner
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
RICHMOND - Police arrested a 55-year-old homeless man Wednesday in connection with an early morning shooting near a soup kitchen that killed a taxi driver.
Detectives arrested Charles Clifton Cain, initially a witness in the case, on suspicion of murder. He was held at City Jail in Richmond, detective Sgt. Dominic Medina said.
Medina said he could not substantiate or rule out robbery as the motive.
Co-workers said taxi driver Gurpreet Singh, 23, of Hercules intended to return to his native India and marry in a few months. His loss shook fellow cabbies, several crying dispatchers said Wednesday morning, and many Richmond-area cabbies did not come to work.
Singh died inside cab No. 148, which officers found with a rear wheel perched on a curb near 21st Street and Carlson Boulevard after residents called at 1:04 a.m.
"Officers and paramedics arriving at the scene attempted to render aid, but he died at the scene," police Capt. Lori Ritter said.
Police say Singh was dispatched to a caller in the area and was likely attacked when he stopped for somebody standing on the street. The shooter may have called the cab.
The neighborhood is a tough collection of subsidized housing, apartment buildings and a soup kitchen for the homeless, bordered by BART tracks on the south side of Carlson.
Wendi Howard, who lives in an apartment at the corner, said she returned home to a grisly scene.
"The engine was still running, it looked like he'd gone in reverse (on 21st) because the car was backed up over
there," said Howard, gesturing across Carlson to a curb that runs along the tracks.
Howard saw blood pooled on the ground beneath the cab. The passenger door hung open and Singh lay slumped toward the passenger seat. Police were already on scene when Howard arrived.
She did not know whether any of her neighbors witnessed the shooting or even heard the gunfire, as the frequent passage of BART trains blocks out street noise.
"It's time for me to move. We don't need this," she said. "There are no lights out here, lots of trees and bushes. It's not safe."
Singh's family members and fellow cab drivers said he drove a 12-hour night shift beginning at 5 p.m. for Greyline Cab. They said Singh, a native of the Amritsar area in India's Punjab state, worked as a cab driver ever since coming to the United States five years ago.
Singh planned to return to Punjab, be married in October and settle near his parents, sister and brother, said a cousin, Nirmalgit Singh.
Harpreet S. Sandhu, president of the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh temple in El Sobrante, said stories of violence, if not murder, of Sikh and other immigrant taxi drivers are commonplace.
"They get beaten up; they get stabbed. It's a terrible life these guys live, the hardships they have to go through," Sandhu said. "It's a way to start off life in America, for people who are often hindered by communications skills; they can get a job fairly easily because all they need is a vehicle.
"But being a taxi driver is a tremendous burden on the family."
Singh's death brought the number of homicides in Richmond this year to 22, twice as many as this time last year. Last year ended with 29 homicides.
The shooting also continued a trend of violence against workers whose jobs require them to circulate in Richmond's tough neighborhoods. A series of armed robberies of food delivery workers and cart vendors during the past six months
is receiving special attention from police.