Cabbie assaulted in argument |

Cabbie assaulted in argument

ASPEN ” An Aspen taxi driver allegedly was the victim of assault during an argument over a pack of cigarettes Monday morning.

Aspen police, who declined to identify the taxi driver, arrested John McDonald, 44, of Bayside, N.Y., on charges of second-degree assault. He is in custody the Pitkin County Jail on a bond of $5,000 and has not yet appeared in court.

Police arrived at the Aspen Store at 5:07 a.m. Monday to find McDonald standing by the open door of the taxi, with blood covering his hands and the taxi driver bleeding from the face, said Sgt. Bill Linn.

“Apparently all this started earlier in the evening,” Linn said, adding that alcohol was a factor. “[McDonald] was on a search for cigarettes.”

According to police, the taxi driver took McDonald to The Little Nell hotel, but McDonald was not able to find cigarettes there. When McDonald came out of the hotel, police said the driver had already left.

Later, McDonald approached Aspen police officer Matt Burg about where to get cigarettes. Burg directed him to the Aspen Store.

According to Linn, when McDonald left the Aspen Store with cigarettes, the taxi driver was filling up with gas at a pump outside.

“The end result was the beating up of the taxi driver,” Linn said. “[McDonald] claimed he had punched the driver because the driver had tried to rip him off.”

High Mountain Taxi owner Todd Gardner declined to name the driver.

“We’re not far enough in the investigation, but it’s horrible,” Gardner said. “It’s out of character for this town, and the level of violence is just out of control in this town. It’s just horrible for drivers.”

This is the second assault on a High Mountain Taxi driver in less than a year. The first occurred July 30, when an Oklahoma man allegedly assaulted taxi driver Paul Nesvat and stole his cab. Brooks Mims Talton III, 41, faces charges of motor vehicle theft, driving under the influence and misdemeanor assault. The case against Talton is on hold in district court until he finishes a voluntarily alcohol treatment program.

Gardner, who bought High Mountain Taxi in 2001, said in July that he had never seen any violence toward a driver until the Talton incident.

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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