Family of cabdriver who died after ‘karate kick’ wants Uber driver charged
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The family of a cabdriver who died nearly three months ago after a traffic dispute ended with him being kicked in the head now wants criminal charges filed.
It happened in the West Loop in broad daylight after Anis Tungekar argued with an Uber driver.
Surveillance footage from a nearby building shows the kick that struck Tungekar moments after a dispute over a damaged sideview mirror.
The incident occurred shortly before 4 p.m. on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend on a busy street just west of downtown.
The Uber driver, a 30-year-old man, was cooperative during questioning by police and released without charge 48 hours later, Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
“How can you, as a state’s attorney, watch someone karate kick another person like it’s an mixed martial arts cage match and then not charge him?” Tungekar’s son, Omar, 36, said Wednesday during a news conference at his attorney’s downtown law office after video of the incident was played on a projection screen and disseminated to reporters.
Detectives, after conducting an investigation, handed their findings to the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, but attorneys in her office sent it back to detectives.
“The case was presented to the state’s attorney and it was returned to the CPD for additional investigation,” Guglielmi said. “They needed additional evidence. Detectives are working to gather the remaining facts the state’s attorney needs and we will re-present the case.”
Guglielmi did not know what loose ends remain but said it’s not uncommon for the state’s attorney to require additional investigation.
Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for Foxx, said in an email sent Wednesday afternoon: “This incident is the subject of a continuing police investigation.”
Omar Tungekar said his only consolation in the wake of the attack was knowing that the police had identified the attacker and had video of the incident.
“Here we are three months later still waiting for someone to acknowledge that it’s a crime to kick someone to death in the city of Chicago,” he said.
“I ask myself: ‘If my father were a doctor would we still be waiting?'” Omar said.
Uber spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said Wednesday that the ride-hailing company, after hearing from detectives the day of the incident, removed the driver from their app.
“This is a horrible tragedy and our thoughts are with Mr. Tungekar’s family and loved ones. As soon as we were made aware of this, we immediately removed this individual’s access from the platform. We will fully cooperate with law enforcement and provide any information that would be helpful for their investigation,” she said in a statement.
No customers had given Uber any concerning feedback about the driver, she added during a phone conversation.
Tungekar’s family will most likely file a lawsuit against Uber, said Michael Gallagher, the family’s attorney.
In addition to putting pressure on the state’s attorney’s office to act, the family decided to hold a news conference to request that anyone who witnessed the event come forward, Gallagher said.
“It was an unprovoked, vicious attack,” he said.
The dispute apparently began as Tungekar was double-parked outside a high-rise on the 500 block of West Madison Street chatting with a fellow taxi driver when the Uber driver pulled up behind and began honking for Tungekar to move, which he did not, according to Tungekar’s son, Rehman, who’s spoken with the taxi driver his dad had been talking to that day.
“My father kind of disregarded it and eventually this guy pulled up to the passenger side of my father’s car and punched his sideview mirror and drove away,” Rehman Tungekar said.
Tungekar then followed the Uber driver for about a block before pulling in front of his car near the intersection of Jefferson and Washington streets.
What happened next was caught on a video that shows Tungekar approaching the driver’s side window of the Uber driver’s car.
“He’s not flailing his arms, he’s not aggressive in any way, shape or form,” Gallagher pointed out.
After what appears to be a brief exchange, Tungekar walks around the Uber driver’s car and uses his hand to “flip” his foldable sideview mirror “in response to the property damage that was done by the Uber driver moments before,” Gallagher said.
“Then the Uber driver gets out and roundhouse kicks him to the head,” he said.
A cyclist who witnessed the event tried to prevent the Uber driver from leaving and was nearly struck himself, Gallagher said. Police arrived and took the driver into custody, according to Guglielmi.
Tungekar rolled onto his stomach on the pavement but never regained consciousness, his family said. He died two days later. The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled his death a homicide by blunt force trauma.
Guglielmi said the blow Tungekar’s head sustained while hitting the pavement caused the most severe damage.
Rehman said it’s unclear whether his father realized the other driver was an Uber driver.
“I don’t know what he knew at that point. I don’t know what he saw,” he said.
Rehman Tungekar, 34, a public radio producer who lives in Minneapolis and attended Northside College Prep in Chicago before graduating from DePaul University, said his father had expressed frustration with Uber cutting into his business in the past but didn’t dwell on it or let it anger him.
Tungekar came to the United States from Pakistan in the early ’80s and worked in real estate with some success before deciding a more steady paycheck could be found driving a taxi.
Tungekar raised his family in Logan Square before buying a home in North Park.
“He was getting old, he was ready for an easier lifestyle,” said Omar Tungekar, who graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep before attending New York University. “He was 64 so retirement was on the horizon.”
Omar, who lives in New York and is between jobs in the tech startup industry, said some of his fondest memories of his father are of him waking up early to cook for his sons before heading out in his taxi.
“It was shocking to see that somebody karate-kicked my father in downtown Chicago and nobody’s been charged,” he said.