Anti-Semitic remarks by cab driver leads to altercation before one passenger is run over

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:00am

Minutes after he was caught by police following his run from the scene of an accident in which his cab ran over his last passenger, a 37-year-old Nashville cab driver told a Metro police crash investigator he had �a difficult time controlling [his] anger.�

While Metro Police officer John Pepper said the statement given to him by the cab driver, Ibrahim Ahmed, was not a tacit admission of guilt, it did shed some light on what caused Ahmed�s cab to run down two Ohio men who were in Nashville over the weekend visiting a friend.

Initial police reports following the early Sunday morning incident stated that Ahmed and his two passengers, Jeremie Imbus and Andrew Nelson, both graduates of Butler University in Indianapolis in their mid-20s, got into a �heated� discussion about religion.

But according to Imbus and Nelson, who on Monday testified against Ahmed at his preliminary criminal hearing, what started as an innocent conversation got out of hand after Ahmed made unsolicited anti-Semitic comments.

�Comments about [Adolf] Hitler, that what he had done was the right thing because he was trying to rid the world of Jews, and that they were responsible for the sin and the evil in the world,� Imbus testified.

Imbus sustained the brunt of the injuries from the crash. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he was treated for a broken pelvis, a broken leg and other less serious injuries.

Surgeons placed two metal pins in his lower right leg, explained Imbus � who has to remain in a wheelchair for the next 12 weeks � in court on Monday.

Pepper testified that his investigation revealed acceleration marks from the tires of Ahmed�s van-style taxi in a parking lot near where the van came to a stop � slammed up against a tree � just adjacent from where Imbus was found lying in the grass.

Pepper also said that it was clear that Imbus was struck by the same van.

�During the course of my investigation it became clear that this was not a normal accident,� Pepper said. �This appeared to be more of an intentional act.�

Prosecutors agreed, and have charged Ahmed with two counts of attempted criminal homicide.

Parts of the testimony offered by Imbus and Nelson have corroborated those charges.

At the same time, both men repeatedly told Ahmed�s defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender John Wing, that there was a great deal about the cab ride they could not recall specifically.

Under questioning from Wing, Imbus said he had approximately 12 drinks over the nine hours they were out on the town. Nelson said he had somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 � 15 drinks that night.

Neither man was able to say who started the conversation about religion, nor could either say exactly how the discussion became escalated or exactly what happened in the time between when one of them exited the cab and the time Imbus was struck.

But both men remembered vividly the anti-Semitic statement allegedly made by Ahmed that they said caught them by surprise.

Nelson said he was outside the cab when he told Ahmed, �If you�re going to live in a country like ours, you�re going to have to tolerate other people�s beliefs.�

�That�s when things got argumentative,� Nelson continued, saying it was also then when he observed Imbus kicking the back of Ahmed�s seat.

Nelson said he grabbed Imbus, removed him from the cab, and the two started to run away when he heard the sound of the engine grow loud just before seeing the van strike Imbus.

General Sessions Court Judge Michael Mondelli bound Ahmed�s entire case over to a grand jury. Wing asked the judge to reduce Ahmed�s $250,000 bond, saying the defendant never made any direct statements about wanting to kill anyone.

Mondelli denied Wing�s request. �Sometimes actions speak louder than words,� he said.

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