Deforge, who rents an apartment in Overbrook Park and works for Southwest Philadelphia-based County Cab, had just gone back to work after having foot surgery when he picked up a fare - two men who severely beat and robbed him
"I just started back to work, and then this happened," he said sadly, looking out the window of his hospital room while baseball highlights on ESPN played in the background.
It has been two weeks since the attack, but bruises still mark his cheeks and face, one of his blue eyes marred with red from blood vessels broken during the beating.
But the veteran cab driver is in good spiritsand happy to be alive.
"I'm glad they didn't kill me. That's the good thing," he said. "I thought they were going to, the way they were talking . . . they said they had guns."
Police accounts said cousins Dawald Williams, 25, and Nahfeeh Williams, 18, hailed Deforge's taxi outside 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby shortly after 11 p.m. Feb. 14. The pair got into the cab and asked for a ride to Island Avenue and Lindbergh Boulevard in Eastwick.
When Deforge took them to the area, police said, one of the men snaked a belt around the unsuspecting driver's neck, choking him, while the other rifled through his pockets and snatched his wallet containing $100 and three debit cards. The pair then pulled Deforge out of the cab and beat him, demanding that he tell them the personal-identification number of his debit cards. They then tossed Deforge, bleeding from the head, into the trunk of the cab and drove him around for 20 minutes before parking the cab and telling him to count to 100 before getting out of the trunk.
Deforge made it back to his cab company's headquarters, on Upland Street near 68th.
Since the attack, other drivers at County Cab - which has about 80 taxis - have rallied around their injured comrade, said Bridget Flaherty, a company manager. This week they held a fundraiser for him, she said, and have set up a fund for donations.
Flaherty said that she was unaware of an attack as serious as Deforge's at the company but that cabbies are always at risk.
"It comes with the territory, unfortunately, being a cab driver," she said. "I don't understand how someone's life is worth the $100 in his pocket."
Surveillance video of two men stalking around 69th Street Terminal before hailing Deforge's cab out front led to their capture, authorities said. After releasing the video a few days after the robbery, cops said, they got a tip that the cousins were hiding at a relative's apartment on Copley Road near Market Street in Upper Darby.
When officers arrived at the apartment, knocked and announced, "Police," they heard a voice from inside say, "Oh, s---!," according to police paperwork. Inside, they found Nahfeeh Williams hiding in a bathroom.
While cops were inside the apartment, Dawald Williams walked in and also was arrested. Both men, according to police, gave statements admitting involvement in the robbery, and each was held on $1 million bail.
Deforge said he's glad the men are off the street.
"I don't think you'll see them getting out of jail for a while," he said.
In nearly two decades he's spent driving a cab in Philadelphia - even almost 16 years driving for Germantown Cab in some of the city's roughest neighborhoods - Deforge said the worst anyone ever did to him before was take off without paying.
"People run on you, that's about it. [I was never] smacked or punched, assaulted or mugged and stuff," he said.
Although he's eager to get out of the hospital and return to work, Deforge said that the experience will make him worry when he resumes driving.
"You just have to be careful, I guess, be on your guard and watch everybody," he said. "I'm probably not the only one they did this to."
To donate to the fund for Peter Deforge, contact County Cab manager Bridget Flaherty at 215-724-8950.
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