Bellingham police arrest suspect in taxi driver assault — his third arrest in 2 weeks

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The Bellingham Police Department enforces the law within Bellingham city limits.

Bellingham police have arrested the man they suspect assaulted a 32-year-old Bellingham Taxi driver early July 5 and left him in the middle of Woburn Street. Before the assault, the man also allegedly racially insulted and degraded the driver.

Patrick Charles Olberg, 23, was booked into Whatcom County Jail on Thursday, July 11, on suspicion of second-degree assault, malicious harassment and third-degree theft. According to jail records, he is still being held.

Thursday’s arrest marked the third time in two weeks Olberg has been has been booked into jail by Bellingham police. His previous arrests occurred:

June 28, when he was booked on suspicion of drive-by shooting, obstructing a police officer and second-degree driving with license suspended following a Sunnyland neighborhood drive-by shooting on James Street. Olberg was released on $15,000 bail on June 30, according to jail records.

July 5, when he was booked on suspicion of attempting to elude police vehicles and second-degree driving while license suspended after he eluded police, a K-9 track and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter early July 4 in the Roosevelt neighborhood. Olberg was released on $25,000 bail on July 7, jail records show.

According to information provided to The Bellingham Herald by Lt. Claudia Murphy, Olberg also was issued a ticket for suspicion of disorderly conduct on May 29.

On July 5, officers were called at 2:26 a.m. to the 2600 block of Woburn Street for the report of a man laying in the middle of the street with another man trying to help him.

Murphy said officers arrived to find the taxi driver had been “seriously assaulted,” and his taxi parked nearby. The taxi driver was taken to St. Joseph’s hospital and then to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a fracture of an orbital socket and possible brain injury, Murphy said.

Murphy said further investigation by detectives, tracing the victim’s fares and interviews of witnesses, allowed them to identify Olberg as the suspect and that on the night of the assault he and several friends attended a party on East Smith Road, drank and called for a taxi to bring them back to town.

Olberg and four others got in the cab, Murphy said, and as they neared Olberg’s home, Olberg became belligerent and started to yell at the taxi driver about the amount of the fare. Detectives also reportedly found that throughout the ride, Olberg called the taxi driver, who is African American, a racial slur.

Once the taxi arrived at Olberg’s house, the taxi driver got out of the cab and told Olberg to get out as well, Murphy said. Olberg reportedly got out and rushed the taxi driver, tackling him to the ground and physically assaulted him.

Olberg then reportedly fled, without paying his fare and leaving the taxi driver unconscious in the middle of the road.

Murphy said witness picked Olberg out of a lineup, and he was taken into custody Thursday by the Bellingham Police Department’s Anti-Crime Team.

According to a Bellingham Taxi Facebook post on Wednesday, July 10, the driver was released from Harborview and is now resting at home.

Bellingham Taxi owner/operator Melissa Bowe helped start a recovery fund for the taxi driver on Facebook, and as of Friday, July 12, it has raised more than $2,000 toward its $5,000 goal.

“We’re trying to raise funds for when he gets out,” Bowe told The Herald. “It’s not only going to be a physical, but also a financial and emotional roller coaster, and we’re just trying to help out any way we can.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.