Leslie Cooper says she was just trying to catch a ride home from work when an assault by a cab driver led to the terrifying preterm delivery of her baby daughter.
Cooper, the senior director of marketing at Columbia Records, tells the Voice that it was about 9 p.m. on February 18 when she, nearly nine months pregnant, hailed a cab near her midtown office.
She asked to be driven to her home in Brooklyn, but the cabbie initially demurred.
“He said that his machine was broken, the routine excuse you hear all the time,” Cooper says. “So I said OK, when we get to Brooklyn I can get some cash out, no problem.”
Although cab drivers are obligated to take a passenger anywhere in the five boroughs, and Cooper had offered a solution to the credit card issue, the driver, Cooper says, then flat-out refused the fare.
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Cooper says she wasn’t about to argue — the man already seemed angry — but she’d already spent what she estimates was ten minutes standing in the frigid cold waiting for a cab, and wasn’t thrilled about being turned back out into the elements. She told the cabbie that she wouldn’t get out of the car until she saw another that could pick her up.
It was at that point, Cooper says, that the cabbie reached over and removed his ID placard, got out of the car, and physically dragged Cooper out of the back seat, throwing her onto the curb.
“He grabbed me by the jacket and literally body-slammed me to the sidewalk,” Cooper says. The encounter was violent enough that a man driving by stopped to offer help and remained while Cooper phoned police.
Cooper immediately called the police and filed a report, but because she wasn’t visibly injured, she says, the police told her that they could not legally categorize the encounter as an assault.
The NYPD confirmed that they were aware of the incident but said that the complaint had been “closed.”
“Because I wasn’t walking away with a broken arm or a gunshot wound or a cut or something, then there was nothing to say that it was an assault,” Cooper says. The incident was recorded as “harassment.” Cooper’s story began to trickle out on social media after a Facebook post from one of the founders of the parenting blog Lil’ Mamas.
Cooper was admitted to a hospital for observation later on the night of the incident, and released early Thursday. But she says she began to feel that something wasn’t right over the following days; she noticed the baby was moving less, which can indicate that labor is imminent. Cooper then went into labor on Saturday, about five weeks early.
On Monday evening, Cooper’s daughter was still in an intensive care unit on a respirator, though the mother had been able at least to hold her newborn. Cooper says she and her husband were incurring significant expenses because of the extra hospital time for both mother and child.
Allan J. Fromberg, a spokesman for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, acknowledged the incident but was unable to offer any details on Monday afternoon, adding, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the mother and child.” The agency has spoken with Cooper, and Fromberg says the commission is “investigating the incident.”
Cooper, who remains in the hospital, says she looks forward to seeing the results of the TLC investigation.
“It would make sense for this guy to lose his license, and never be able to drive in the city ever again,” Cooper says. “I think that would be fair.”