Cabbie shoots passenger Man is wounded critically; driver claims self-defense


Fearing for his life, a Baltimore County cab driver shot and critically wounded a passenger in Randallstown Friday night, county police said yesterday.

They said a man in the back seat pointed a handgun at the driver while the cab was in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in the 8500 block of Liberty Road about 11 p.m.

The passenger, Craig Rawls, 23, of the 4600 block of Hawksbury Road in Randallstown, was listed in critical condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with gunshot wounds in the chest and shoulder.

Louis S. Levy, 46, a driver for the Victory Cab Co., said he was apprehensive when he was dispatched by radio to a closed shopping center in Randallstown to pick up Mr. Rawls. He said his fear increased when he saw that the passenger was wearing sunglasses.

"I was pretty sure I was in trouble," Mr. Levy said yesterday as he described how he slowly put a gun -- which he keeps inside a knitted cap under the seat -- on the seat beside him, within easy reach.

He said the passenger ordered him to drive to a secluded area. Instead, Mr. Levy pulled into the brightly lighted parking lot outside a Popeye's restaurant.

"As soon as I pulled up, I turned around in my seat so I could see his hands," Mr. Levy said. "He reached around behind him like he was going to reach for his wallet. He came around with a long-barreled revolver. He actually brought the gun up to my head. When he brought his gun up, I brought my gun up and fired at him as much as I could and as many times as I could."

Mr. Levy said his gun jammed after firing two shots, and Mr. Rawls lay on the back seat with the revolver in his hand. The driver said he kept his then-inoperative weapon pointed at the passenger.

"I yelled at him to put the gun down," Mr. Levy said, adding that the man held onto the gun for a short time before dropping it.

County Police Cpl. Paul D. Martin said Mr. Rawls was charged with attempted armed robbery and may be charged with handgun violations.

The corporal said a grand jury will decide whether to bring charges against Mr. Levy, who said he did not have a permit to carry the gun.

Mr. Levy said he has taken the gun with him in his cab since a passenger struck him on the head with a steel pipe last winter.

The cab driver said he was worried about the possibility of facing criminal charges.

"I have plenty of reason to be frightened," he said, noting that he has driven a cab for three years. "Three or four times a week, I'm frightened that something is going to happen to me. The police can't be with me day and night. I feel I have a right to protect myself."

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