Suspect in GR taxi driver attack charged in hate crime

Jacob Holtzlander
Jacob Holtzlander was arraigned via video on Dec. 1, 2016.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) –- A man police say shouted racial slurs at a Grand Rapids Taxi driver he allegedly attacked has turned himself in.

Jacob Holtzlander, 23, was formally charged Thursday with felony ethnic intimidation and assault and battery.

Police say taxi driver Yemaj Adem, was picking up five women outside The B.O.B. just before 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 12 when a man also entered his vehicle.

Officers said about a mile into the ride, the women asked to get out at Straight Avenue and W. Fulton Street because the male passenger made them uncomfortable.

The suspect then asked Adem to take him to another location. When the driver told him it would cost him more money, police say the suspect punched Adem in the head and face while repeatedly yelling, “Trump.”

Adem told 24 Hour News 8 he is originally from Ethiopia but is a naturalized American citizen.

In police video recorded after the passenger’s arrest, the suspect can be heard off-camera repeatedly saying racial slurs about the victim, who was talking to officers.

Adem said Holtzlander seemed drunk and police agreed they believe alcohol was a factor in the incident.

Jacob Holtzlander
A Nov. 12, 2016 mug shot of Jacob Holtzlander.

Holtzlander’s mug shot shows blood on his face. Adem said he did not retaliate. He said he saw that the suspect was still agitated while in the back of the police cruiser and thinks may have hit his head because he saw him acting violently.

In court Thursday, Holtzlander’s attorney said his client has been enrolled in a substance abuse assessment program to get help for his alcohol problem. A judge set Holtzlander’s bond at $5,000 cash surety.

Holtzlander is expected back in court on Dec. 13. If convicted on the ethnic intimidation charge, he could spend up to two years in prison.