At Airport, There's Fear Over Cabbie's Shooting

Posted: June 29, 1987

Airplanes roared and a taxi dispatcher blared over a loudspeaker yesterday at Philadelphia International Airport as cab drivers spoke about the shooting of driver Charles Faulkenstein.

You could hear their fear.

"We work on the slim edge of getting killed out there," said Dave Boccella, 57, a 31-year driver and victim of "about eight" robberies, including two in one recent month.

"Thank God, I've never been a victim," said Martin Needleman, a diminutive, tan driver in his 60s and friend of Faulkenstein. "Knock on wood," he said, rapping a plastic dashboard.

Faulkenstein, 47, of Ashfield Lane near Keswick Road in Northeast Philadelphia, was shot in the face and chest at 10:54 p.m. Saturday in his United Cab at 50th and Market streets in West Philadelphia, police said.

He was in critical but stable condition at Mercy Catholic Medical Center, Misericordia Division, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"He's alert and talking," the spokeswoman said.

Police said Faulkenstein picked up a passenger at 22nd and Walnut streets and drove him to 50th and Market, where the passenger pulled out a gun and shot him.

Faulkenstein told rescue crew members on the way to the hospital that his assailant did not try to rob him, detectives said.

United Cab dispatcher Sharon Williams said another United driver found Faulkenstein shot in his cab.

Detectives gave this description of the assailant provided by Faulkenstein: a black man, about 27 to 29 years old, dark-complexioned, 6 feet tall, weighing 160 pounds, with short, dark hair, wearing dark pants and a white, short-sleeved dress shirt.

Faulkenstein was married about two months ago, Williams said. No one answered the door yesterday at the small, white-brick duplex in Morrell Park where he lives with his wife, Susan.

At the airport, drivers spoke of Faulkenstein as they stood by their cabs on "The Hill," a raised parking lot where they wait in long lines to be dispatched to the arriving flight terminals.

"Charlie's a smart driver," said Charlie Chaplin, 40. "He knows who not to let get in his car. He really only works the airport. That's what makes this so unsettling."

Some drivers wondered why Faulkenstein picked up a Center City fare, noting he, like many of them, worked the airport where he could screen customers better.

Jake Dank, 27, thought he knew why.

"Charlie told me Friday he was going to go back on the streets because business was slow at the airport," Dank said. "Saturday was his first day back on the streets."

Saturday was also Faulkenstein's birthday, Dank said.

News spread swiftly on The Hill about Faulkenstein, a popular airport cab veteran. "I don't know anybody who doesn't like Charlie," Chaplin said.

Others noted the shooting was the third violent crime against a Philadelphia cab driver in three months.

In April, an off-duty police officer moonlighting for Yellow Cab Co. was stabbed in the stomach during a holdup attempt in West Oak Lane. The driver shot his assailant, who was captured by police.

On May 22, United Cab driver Joseph P. Johnston Jr., 28, was fatally shot in the back of the head during a holdup. Police arrested William Mikeel, 19, of Gibson Drive near 56th Street, and charged him with murder.

Recounting the wave of violence, some drivers spoke of arming themselves. Others already have.

"This is 'Esmerelda,' " said driver Louis S. Thompson, 36, displaying an aluminum baseball bat he withdrew from beneath the front seat of his cab. "If someone is gonna do harm to me, I should have the right to do harm to them."

Dank displayed a black rubber stick that looked like a police nightstick but unscrewed to become a set of nunchakus, a martial arts weapon.

Some men said more drivers will carry guns to ward off robbers.

But Ilya Spivak, 29, was skeptical, saying: "What can you do? They're right behind you. They have a gun. They shoot."

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