Aspen taxi fight sends passenger back to hospital

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A shouting match between an Aspen taxi driver and a passenger he was taking home from the hospital earlier this month escalated into a physical fight that sent the passenger back to the hospital, according to a police report.

Police, however, determined that both men were at fault and charged each with disorderly conduct. They are scheduled to appear in Aspen Municipal Court next week.

The incident began in the late afternoon July 11 when James Mayson, 56, a driver for High Mountain Taxi, picked up Nelson Cantave, 45, and his wife and mother from Aspen Valley Hospital. While en route to Cantave’s house near the Buttermilk Ski Area, Mayson was talking on his cellphone to another passenger he was to pick up next, according to the report by Aspen Police Officer Seth DelGrasso.

Cantave told Mayson it was “rude” to be on the phone while passengers were in his taxi. That exchange escalated into a verbal dispute that lasted until the taxi arrived at Cantave’s house and continued as Cantave walked toward his porch, the report states.

At that point, Cantave’s wife told Mayson her husband was coming from the hospital, was not in his “right mind” and asked the driver to have some compassion for him. She told police she then gave him a large tip.

However, as Mayson drove away, Cantave screamed from the porch, “I wouldn’t have given you a dollar,” the report states.

According to Cantave, who is black, Mayson then called him a racial slur. Mayson later denied uttering the slur, and Cantave’s wife told police she didn’t hear it.

Nonetheless, the two men continued to shout at one another and challenged each other to a fight. Mayson parked his taxi about 25 yards away and got out in a fighting stance, the police report states. Cantave walked over to the vehicle, took off his glasses and set them on the taxi.

“Mr. Cantave said that Mr. Mayson then slammed him to the ground,” according to the report, which noted that Cantave had abrasions on his knees and one elbow.

It isn’t clear how long the fight lasted, but it stopped “because they both tired out,” the report states.

While police were speaking with Cantave, he began coughing up bloody phlegm while wincing and grabbing his left side so officers called an ambulance. Officer Seth DelGrasso overheard Cantave tell paramedics his neck and back hurt, and they transported him back to the hospital, according to the police report.

Mayson told police a similar story about how the fight began, except for the racial slur, and said he was willing to apologize, shake hands and talk it out with Cantave, who was not receptive to the idea, the report states.

“Through discussions with all officers involved, it was determined that both parties were at fault for escalating the incident to a fight,” DelGrasso wrote in his report.

Cantave didn’t like that he was being charged, though officers told him he should have gone inside his house and called 911 to de-escalate the situation.