Prosecutor: Bellingham man charged with hate crime after strangling Uber driver

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A 22-year-old man has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly attacked an Uber driver because of his skin color.

Whatcom County prosecutors charged Grifin Levi Sayers Monday with malicious harassment, otherwise known as a hate crime, and second-degree assault.

Sayers allegedly ordered an Uber from his home in Bellingham to get fast food and cigarettes. The driver, who is Sikh, took him on the errands. On their way back, Sayers allegedly choked the driver and made comments about his "dark skin" and "turban," according to court documents.

The victim driver told police Sayers choked him for 5 to 10 seconds before he managed to escape. He fled from his car and called police.

When police contacted Sayers, he allegedly admitted to getting a ride with the victim but denied assaulting him.

The Sikh Coalition, the nation's largest Sikh civil rights organization, called the alleged attack heinous.

"The attacker knew his Uber driver was Sikh," said Amrith Kaur, the Sikh Coalition's legal director. "And he chose to both physically and verbally attack him because of it."