The Metropolitan Police Department has made an arrest in a case involving an assault by a Lyft driver on Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, a prominent Orthodox rabbi in Washington, D.C.
On Jan. 31, the MPD arrested 32-year-old Tireek Myrick of Northwest, Washington, D.C., and charged him with Simple Assault.
In a press release, the MPD said it is “investigating this offense as being potentially motivated by hate or bias.” The press release noted that “The designation can be changed at any point as an investigation proceeds and more information is gathered,” adding that “A designation as a hate crime by MPD does not mean that prosecutors will prosecute it as a hate crime.”
In a written statement sent to the Washington Jewish Week, an MPD spokesperson said that the suspect was “placed under arrest for Simple Assault/Suspected Hate Crime.” Under the heading “Hate Bias/Motivation” in the MPD’s Public Incident Report, it states “Religion – Anti-Jewish.” The report also notes that the incident is a suspected hate crime.
Shemtov, director of Chabad Georgetown and rabbi at the Pentagon, ordered a ride through the Lyft app on Sunday morning, Jan. 28. Shortly after Shemtov entered the car, the driver told Shemtov that he didn’t like his “energy” and demanded that he exit the vehicle. After Shemtov got out of the car, the driver also got out and “struck V-1 [Shemtov] about the face multiple times with his hands,” according to the MPD’s Public Incident Report. After the incident, the driver fled the scene.
The incident, which took place on Connecticut Avenue NW, was witnessed by several passersby. Videos from the scene that were taken by Shemtov and at least one witness show the driver striking Shemtov in the face multiple times while holding his car key and seemingly using it as a weapon.
“Maybe like 30 seconds after I get in the car, he tells me that he doesn’t like my ‘energy’ and he wants me to exit the vehicle … I asked him ‘I didn’t say anything, I didn’t do anything, why are you telling me to exit the vehicle?’ … and he was like ‘from the moment you got into the car, I didn’t like your energy,’ … he was just saying ridiculous stuff as an excuse or reason to get me out of the vehicle,” Shemtov told the Washington Jewish Week.
Shemtov said the driver chased him up the street, began swearing at him and then hit Shemtov across the face, knocking his yarmulke off. After Shemtov walked back to the car to try and keep the driver from leaving the scene until the police arrived, Shemtov said the driver hit him in the face “multiple times again.”
It was “nothing I said, nothing I did – he was just kind of offended by my ‘energy’ … I’m not really sure what energy he’d be referring to,” Shemtov said.
As a result of the assault, Shemtov sustained several cuts on his face. “He slashed me with his keys about an inch below my eyeball,” Shemtov said.
“Lyft unequivocally condemns this behavior. Upon learning of this incident, we deactivated the driver and we’ve been in touch with the rider,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a written statement sent to the Washington Jewish Week on Jan. 29. “We encourage riders and drivers to report harassment, discrimination, or safety concerns in the Lyft app.”
According to the MPD, Myrick was also charged with Burglary One in conjunction with an unrelated incident. In its press release, the MPD said that on Jan. 13, Myrick “went to the Unit block of R Street, Northeast in response to the victims’ request to deliver food. The suspect failed to deliver the food and the victims canceled their order. A short time later, the suspect returned to the victim’s home yelling and banging on the door demanding money from the victims. When the victims did not open the door the suspect kicked in the door, demanded money from the victims, and took property. The suspect fled the scene.” The MPD’s Public Incident Report relating to that case notes that Myrick took the victims’ laptop computer before fleeing.