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Former La. EMT Assaulted by Uber Driver

Aug. 25—After spending six years as an EMT in New Orleans, Joe Canizaro said he moved back home to Boston three months ago. But a quick return visit to Louisiana left him with what he's almost positive is a broken hand.

The injury, along with several scrapes and a gash, came after he said he was punched by his Uber driver for complaining about the way he was aggressively navigating Uptown streets.

Canizaro said when he got out of the car, he told the driver it was the "worst ride I've ever had," and that he wasn't "qualifying for the Indy 500" on a Friday night in New Orleans.

"That was when he started getting really aggressive," Canizaro said, speaking from the Louis Armstrong International Airport terminal as he awaited a flight home.

The incident began about 2 a.m. when Canizaro requested a ride home after spending time at 45 Tchoup, a Red Sox-themed bar in the 4500 block of Tchoupitoulas Street.

He said his interaction with the driver got off to a rough start because he didn't see the car arrive, and the driver sat waiting for several minutes before Canizaro approached.

"When I got in the car I apologized. ... I sat down and he rolled his eyes at me and didn't say a word," Canizaro said.

The pair didn't speak for the entire ride, he said, as the driver whizzed through side streets, rolling through stop signs and red lights. When the trip, which took approximately nine minutes, came to an end in the 1600 block of Third Street, Canizaro said he exited the car and made his comments to the driver.

The pair argued for a bit, Canizaro said, before he began to walk away. At that point the driver allegedly exited the car, said "you think you're a big, tough man," and threw the punch.

Canizaro said he was knocked to the ground, injuring his hand and scraping his leg. When he "hopped back up to defend himself," the driver had gotten back in his car and sped off.

Moments later, Canizaro checked his Uber app and found he had been logged out "due to an incident," and blocked from using the app while an investigation was completed. Canizaro said he wasn't sure what happened, but he believes the driver reported him for something.

"He punched me in the face and then blocked me from using Uber," he said.

Canizaro reported the incident to New Orleans police, and said their response was "phenomenal." Canizaro said an arrest warrant was put out for the driver. An NOPD spokesman confirmed that a report had been filed for a "simple battery incident," although they would not confirm the details or whether an arrest warrant has been issued.

Canizaro shared images in social media reports that showed the bloody gash on his hand and scrapes on his arm and leg. He added that he couldn't grip anything with his injured hand, and planned to visit the doctor when he returned home.

Uber has said it is looking into the incident, and both the driver and Canizaro have had access suspended, which is consistent with their policies. They said they will be reaching out to both parties involved. Canizaro said at minimum, he hopes the ride-sharing company will fire the driver and help the NOPD locate him.

In the meantime, he said he'll be downloading Lyft for his upcoming trips. Saturday morning, he opted instead for a ride from a friend to the Kenner airport terminal.

"I was going to [take an Uber]. But not after last night," he said.

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