A man who choked a cab driver of Somali descent in St. Cloud last month has been charged with assault motivated by bias.
Zach Degraw, 23, of Willmar, was in the back of a cab with a woman as the driver took them from downtown St. Cloud to Rollie's Bar in Sauk Rapids at 2:12 a.m. on Mar. 25.
The driver chatted with the woman but noted that Degraw was silent. Degraw then allegedly began to assault the driver by putting his arm around his neck to choke him, causing the driver to swerve across the two-lane Highway 23 in Minden Township.
Degraw himself told police "he could have sworn" the taxi driver was going to call some of his friends from "within his own race," according to a criminal complaint, and when questioned about that statement he said, "Well, he is Muslim."
"You tell me, do you not know what these Muslims will do with a white American girl?" he added.
The woman passenger later told police that Degraw was racist, and the suspect continued to refer to the Islamic faith in the squad car ride to the station, questioning a deputy whether if he was a Muslim, to which the deputy replied that he wasn't.
"The defendant then asked [Deputy] Thomas if he trusted Muslims," the complaint continues. "The defendant then told Thomas a story about how a Muslim had wronged him in the past."
Degraw is facing two charges of 5th-degree assault and one charge of gross misdemeanor assault motivated by bias.