A White Minneapolis woman, who was captured on video repeatedly calling a Kenyan Uber driver the N-word and falsely accusing him, has been charged in connection with the April 2022 incident.
According to the Star Tribune, 38-year-old Jill C. Berquist launched the racist rant toward Wesley Gakuo, 47, while riding in his Uber on April 1 last year. The incident, which Gakuo filmed and shared on YouTube, occurred in south Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue.
In the wake of the incident, authorities initially brought two misdemeanor charges against Berquist. The charges in question included disorderly conduct and falsely reporting a crime. The latter had to do with the suspect alleging Gakuo had punched her.
But the charge of falsely reporting a crime was removed in an amended charge the City’s Attorney’s Office filed on Tuesday. The almost 500-word document detailing why the two charges were brought against the suspect was, however, not edited in the amended version. The City’s Attorney’s Office did not also disclose why that charge was removed.
Though the incident occurred last April, prosecutors only became aware of the incident in May this year – ultimately paving the way for her to be charged. She made her first court appearance on Tuesday, and she’s scheduled to return on September 20.
In the video of the incident, Berquist is seen screaming at Gakuo while he’s driving and telling him to “go up town” as she’s on the phone with another person. “Go to uptown, motherf****r!” she also says, to which Gakuo tells her to not refer to him by that.
Gakuo is later seen pulling over and getting out of the car after Berquist initially threatens to report the incident to the police. Berquist is then seen throwing a mounted iPad tablet from the car’s window before also coming out of the car. She, however, continues verbally assaulting Gakuo.
“You lowlife, f***ing n****r,” “Black n****r,” “Cops will f***ing string your s**t up you f***ing n****r!” she’s heard saying.
Berquist later calls 911 but continues calling Gakuo the N-word while she’s talking to the dispatcher. “He didn’t want to take me home. … Please send the police for the Black man who punched me,” she’s heard saying.
As Berquist continues to yell, a man who approaches her tells her to leave his neighborhood and threatens to have her arrested. “‘I’m white. I live here. Black people don’t live here,'” Berquist replies. “Excuse me?” another person is heard responding off-camera.
During the 911 call, the complaint stated that the dispatcher told Berquist to stop using the racial slur, the Star Tribune reported. Besides telling the dispatcher that she did not want medical personnel to be sent to the scene, she told responding officers that Gakuo had punched her on the left side of her face. But no sign of physical harm was observed by the officers.
Though Berquist was subsequently adamant Gakuo had punched and held her down, she later wrongly claimed that she received help from medical personnel, adding that the Black driver punched the right side of her face – not her left. But footage from officers’ body-worn cameras did not show her head being held down or medical personnel at the scene.
Berquist, in an interview with the Star Tribune on Wednesday, remained adamant Gakuo punched and held her down – though she said she shouldn’t have gone on the racist tirade. Berquist’s mother, who said she had seen a portion of the video, also claimed her daughter did nothing wrong. “He did not take the designated route. He took a longer route,” the suspect’s mother Julie Berquist said.
Asked about her daughter using racial slurs, Julie said, “She has Black friends. She is not a racist person.” She also claimed her daughter uttered the racial slurs because she was overdrunk and has mental challenges.
Gakuo, a Kenyan who relocated from his home nation to Minnesota in 1999, said the April 2022 incident was the first time someone had launched a racist tirade of such nature toward him. He, however, said he has nothing against Berquist.
“I hope she will figure a way for her life,” he said.