FOLEY -- A Willmar man is accused of choking a St. Cloud taxi driver because he is Muslim. A criminal complaint filed in Benton County shows 23-year-old Zachary DeGraw is charged with assault motivated by bias and two counts of 5th degree assault.

The cab driver, who is of Somali descent, was taking DeGraw and a female passenger from a downtown bar to Rollie's Bar in the early morning hours of March 25th when the assault took place.

Court records show DeGraw was in the back seat when he reached forward, put his arm around the driver's neck and began choking him. The driver testified he was unable to breathe or call for help. The driver was swerving from lane to lane on Highway 23 before slamming on the brakes and coming to a stop. He was able to break free and call for help.

A Benton County Sheriff's deputy responded and interviewed the female passenger who allegedly told the deputy DeGraw was a racist and confirmed he had choked the driver.

When the deputy confronted DeGraw about the incident he told the officer he believed the cab driver was going to call someone within his own race. DeGraw also allegedly said, "Well he is Muslim", but denied choking the driver.

The complaint states DeGraw said to the officer "You tell me, do you not know what these Muslims will do with a white American girl?"

As the deputy was taking DeGraw to jail, the officer, who is Native American, said DeGraw asked him if he was Muslim and when he was told the officer was not, DeGraw asked if he trusted Muslims.

DeGraw's next court date is set for May 4th.

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