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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The Cab Driver Incident – Two Sides to Every Story
by Andrew Davis
2005-02-16

This article shared 5295 times since Wed Feb 16, 2005
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After the incident that occurred late Feb. 3 between Chicago Department of Public Health policy director Mike Jackson and taxi driver Haroon Paryani that resulted in the latter's death, portraits of these individuals have begun to take shape. People have contributed facts and opinions on everything from the horrific aspects of the crime to the anguish that Jackson's and Paryani's families are experiencing.

Here is what allegedly occurred: Paryani and Jackson were having a dispute in the 500 block of West Briar Place in Chicago, possibly over an eight-dollar fare. At one point, Paryani fell. Jackson got in the cab, backed up, and accelerated forward, driving over the cab driver's body. A female bystander ran to Paryani's aid, but jumped out of the way when she allegedly saw the taxi's reverse lights. Jackson then backed over the victim, put the car in forward, and drove over Paryani a third time, dragging him a short distance. Jackson then sped off in the cab and crashed it nearby on Broadway. After Jackson ran a short distance, another bystander -- thinking the alleged assailant was in trouble -- hailed him another taxi, which carried Jackson away. Paryani died of multiple injuries, including lacerations to the heart and chest.

Jackson then turned himself in at Area 3 police headquarters on Feb. 4; his attorneys, Jon Erickson and Michael Oppenheimer, accompanied him. ( Jackson was formally charged on Feb. 6 with first-degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking. If convicted, he could receive a mandatory life sentence in prison. )

A Darker Side?

Reaction to the incident -- which quickly spread around the LGBT community -- was initially shock. The AIDS Legal Council of Chicago ( ALCC ) released a statement that read, in part, that "Mike Jackson has been a valuable colleague in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Chicago. We were among the scores of organizations and individuals he and the Hearts Foundation [ which Jackson co-founded ] helped, directly and indirectly. We were stunned to hear that he had been charged with this crime." At Jackson's bond hearing -- at which bail was denied -- several individuals were named who were willing to attest to Jackson's character and his years of work as a public servant. Others stated that the alleged action was out of character for Jackson and that no one complained about him.

However, according to other reports, people had complained about him. For instance, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the staff at a local bar recently had to ask Jackson to leave because of inappropriate behavior; as he left, Jackson allegedly threatened to use his connections to close down the bar. ( Indeed, a bar patron informed Windy City Times about disturbing behavior that Jackson reportedly exhibited the week of the incident; he said that Jackson talked to him and was "distraught." ) In addition, the Sun-Times stated that Jackson threatened to shut down a local store because the shop owner confronted him for not paying a bill. There had also been some recent troubling issues in Jackson's life, including bankruptcy and a stop put on his driver's license. One Windy City Times reader e-mailed that he did not understand "the pathetic and disgusting rush to praise Jackson."

Taxi Driver

In the midst of the incident and the ongoing legal proceedings, a lot of attention has been focused on Jackson -- maybe too much, according to some.

Several people are concerned that Paryani -- who was a father of four and is being described as kind -- is getting lost amidst Jackson's praises. Ifti Nasim, co-founder of the South Asian LGBT organization Sangat, e-mailed Windy City Times that Paryani has been given "short shrift." He went on to state that, " [ a ] s a member of both Chicago's gay and Pakistani communities, I was particularly disturbed to hear several white gay community leaders [ humanizing Jackson while short-changing Paryani ] ." A particularly biting comment that Nasim made was that " [ j ] ust because Mr. Paryani was a cab driver and not a 'mover and a shaker' associated with the politically well-connected Health Department does not make his life any less worthwhile." Regarding Jackson's lawyers' contention that they would prove in court that the driver was the aggressor, Nasim responded that " [ n ] o amount of provocation could excuse such a heinous act and my fellow gay community members would do well to have some consideration for Mr. Paryani as well as Mr. Jackson."

Although ALCC expressed shock regarding Jackson, the organization also lauded Paryani and recognized the impact his death will have on his family: "The death of Haroon Paryani on Chicago's north side [ on Feb. 3 ] was a horrible tragedy. We know, from our own clients' stories, of the enormous personal courage it takes for an immigrant to come to this country and make a life in a new community and in a new language. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this difficult time ... We do not know what happened on Briar Street on [ Feb. 3 ] . We do know that, whatever the outcome of the criminal proceedings, nothing will restore Mr. Paryani to his family." Ann Fisher, executive director of ALCC, even suggested a fund-raiser for Paryani's family.

In the weeks and months to come, facts connected to this case will emerge that will continue to galvanize and polarize various communities. However, it is important to note that, in the middle of the vortex of fact and fiction, lives have been permanently altered. As Fisher told Windy City Times, "It's all tragic. The driver's death is a tragedy and Mike being accused is another."


This article shared 5295 times since Wed Feb 16, 2005
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