Taxi driver assaulted in Evanston’s first hate crime

Susan Daker

In what a police commander called Evanston’s first hate crime, two men assaulted a Chicago taxi driver near The Arch early Sunday morning, police said.

Cmdr. Mike Perry of Evanston Police Department said the driver of the taxi was hit in the face several times by two motorcyclists, one of them a state corrections officer, after they forced him to pull over at the corner of Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue.

William Morataya, 28, of Franklin Park, was charged with aggravated battery, committing a hate crime and impersonating a police officer. Eddy Comas, 24, of Chicago, was charged with aggravated battery and committing a hate crime.

Perry said the incident began as a traffic altercation on Sheridan Road in Chicago. The suspects, who were riding with a group of 10 to 15 motorcyclists, said the cab driver cut them off. The cab driver told police he just switched lanes.

Morataya pulled alongside the man’s cab and flashed his corrections officer badge. The other suspect, Comas, pulled in front of the taxi, causing him to stop.

After he pulled over, Morataya approached the cab and banged on the window. Comas threw a bottle that shattered the driver’s window, Perry said.

According to police reports, the suspects made derogatory comments to the driver based on his appearance and related to the recent terrorist attacks.

The victim, a 31-year-old driver for Sun Taxi Associates, suffered facial injuries after being punched in the face and cut with glass.

Bill Cunningham, a spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff’s office, said Morataya has been suspended indefinitely and may be terminated pending the outcome of a sheriff’s office internal investigation and the criminal investigation. Morataya has worked two years guarding inmates at Cook County Jail.

EPD has been on a state of heightened security since the attacks in New York and Washington last Tuesday.

“Our main concern is for the safety of our residents,” Perry said. “We’re going to take a stand. Hate crimes will not be tolerated in Evanston.”

According to John Gorman, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office, hate crimes do not occur often in Illinois, but there has been an increase since last week’s tragedy.

The Illinois hate crime statute prohibits crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, creed, religion, national origin and in some instances sex, familial status and handicap. The hate crime statute also allows the court to impose more severe sentences for hate-related crimes.

Morataya and Comas are scheduled to appear Oct. 12 at Circuit Court in Skokie.