A taxi driver died at a hospital Sunday morning after he was struck several times by his passenger in a gas station parking lot over cab fare, police said.
The assault was reported just after 3 a.m. at a 76 gas station located on Franklin and Bronson avenues in Hollywood, where a man was found unconscious, according to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division.
The driver was identified by his employer, the Yellow Cab company, as Asfawosen Alemseged, 47.
"It’s very hard to take it," said friend and Vice President of Yellow cab in LA Mekebib Seifu. "He’s like my brother. You know? He was one of the good drivers."
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Seifu and Alemseged bonded 25 years ago when both men moved to LA from the same town in Ethiopia.
But their long-lasting friendship ended Sunday after Alemseged was killed.
A preliminary investigation revealed Alemseged picked up three passengers at 3 a.m. He dropped off all three in Hollywood, but for some reason, one passenger - a man in his 40s - got back into the front seat.
When Alemseged pulled into the 76 gas station, the two began to fight over cab fare, police said.
"They were fighting inside the vehicle. That fight led to the parking lot of the gas station," LAPD Lt. John Radke said.
Detectives obtained dash cam footage from Almemseged’s car Sunday from the company's headquarters in Gardena.
Company executives said they are disgusted by the footage, which they say shows Alemseged getting punched in the face repeatedly.
"You always wonder if they’re safe. There are safeguards in place to protect drivers. But you can’t control a passenger's behaviors," said Yellow Cab's Marco Soto.
Alemseged was taken to a hospital where he died.
Police are now searching for the passenger as a murder suspect in the man's death. Police say he ran after the assault, but left something behind.
A bloodhound named Sage used that scent to track the man's route a few blocks east on Sunset Boulevard, but he got away.
"You don’t believe it for a second. But, these things happen," Seifu said.