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Suspect Arrested; Driver Claims Race Played Role In San Francisco Uber Assault

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- When he heard that one of two female passengers captured on in-car video assaulting him last weekend had been arrested, Uber driver Subhakar Khadka said a sense of relief swept over his body.

Khadka has not driven since the incident as he struggles to overcome the psychological trauma lingering in the wake of the assault. He believes he was targeted because of his race.

"It's a sign of relief we are getting there and we are one step closer," Khadka told KPIX 5. "I believe they should be lawfully punished - whatever our law says over here."

Officers from the Las Vegas Police Department apprehended 24-year-old Malaysia King Thursday afternoon in connection with the incident on March 7. The other suspect, 24-year-old Arna Kimiai, remained outstanding but informed police through her legal counsel that she intended to turn herself into the authorities.

Las Vegas police released a booking photo of King Friday.

Uber assault suspect Malaysia King
Uber assault suspect Malaysia King (Las Vegas Police Department)

"We're glad to hear that Ms. Kimiai intends to do the right thing and turn herself in to the nearest law enforcement agency, and we hope it happens promptly," said Lt. Tracy McCray, who heads the San Francisco Police Department's Robbery Detail.

"The behavior captured on video in this incident showed a callous disregard for the safety and wellbeing of an essential service worker in the midst of a deadly pandemic. We take this conduct very seriously in San Francisco, and we're committed to ensuring that justice is done in this case."

Officers charged King assault with a caustic chemical, assault and battery conspiracy and violation of health and safety code.

A wellspring of public support was also helping Khadka recover. A gofundme account set up for him has grown to about $65,000 in two days.

"I am blown away seeing that from community," he said. "I would like to use it for attorney fees if I may need in future, and some of that money will go toward family maintenance."

Khadka's wife and son currently remain in his native country of Nepal. He uses money earned while Uber driving to help support them.

KPIX 5 first reported on the story Monday night. In the video, three women are seen in the back seat berating the driver using profanities. At one point, the woman now identified as Kimiai who coughed on the driver also ripped off the facemask he was wearing.

Warning: Disturbing video, explicit language (Source: Subhakar Khadka) 

Khadka said he had pulled over to tell the women to wear facemasks and the driver is heard telling the women to get out of his car. The video begins with one woman telling the driver, "F--- the masks!" and then repeatedly coughing at him.

The video of the women abusing Khadka and the story surrounding the confrontation has since gone viral. Both Uber and Lyft have banned the user in the incident.

ALSO READ: Lyft Bans Maskless Uber Passenger Who Coughed On, Assaulted Driver; Woman Posts Videos Taken Before Incident

Uber also issued a statement early Thursday evening thanking the police department after the arrests were announced.

"We thank the San Francisco Police Department for their swift action. Uber does not tolerate racism or hate in any form, against any community. When one community is being attacked, we are all being attacked. We are shocked and saddened by the recent increase in anti-Asian hate, particularly when it affects a driver or rider. In this case, we have banned all three riders and have been in contact with Mr. Khadka to offer our support," the Uber statement said.

Kimiai also posted video from her perspective behind Khadka where she claims he tried to get her and her friends to exit his car while on the freeway.

Her Instagram account @keepinupwforeign  posted a series of videos that appeared to precede the incident on Sunday, but the account has since been made private.

Kimiai also apparently posted a video on social media in which she expressed some remorse for her actions but continues to rail against and blame the driver for ending her ride and demanding her group leave his vehicle.

In that video, Kimiai threatens to sue Uber and ends the video by saying, "That's why I take Lyft."

While an arrest has been made, SFPD officers said the case remains an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD Tip Line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.

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