LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Down Syndrome of Louisville provides almost 800 members in Kentucky and Indiana with support, education, and advocacy. Executive Director Julie Torzewski says her non-profit also goes to great lengths to make sure those members are safe during their stays at the organization's Indiana Campus in New Albany and Kentucky Campus on S. Hurstbourne Parkway in Louisville.
Now, however, she's wondering what more can be done.
"It's just unfortunate and deeply saddening that we have to even have the discussion," she said.
Torzewski recently learned one the young people who frequently visits the Kentucky Campus was sexually abused. The female victim, who police say has a "profound" intellectual disability, wasn't abused at the campus on S. Hurstbourne Parkway, but LMPD says the female victim was sexually abused by a cab driver who picked her up at the campus to take her home.
“It's just really heartbreaking to have something that breaks that trust,” said Torzewski.
Torzewski says TARC3, which is the Transit Authority of River City's service for any individual with a disability who is unable to use a more traditional TARC bus, provides transportation to and from the center and often contracts cab drivers from the Yellow Cab company.
Friday, 35-year-old Ismael Omer, who records say is Yellow Cab driver, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse.
According to court records, the abuse happened in July 2018. Those records say Omer was driving the female victim home from Down Syndrome of Louisville around 5 p.m. when he pulled over, got in the back seat with the victim, and tried to grope her. The report says the victim hit Omer, so he got back in the driver's seat and took her home.
None of the alleged abuse took place on the property of Down Syndrome of Louisville.
When she was dropped off, the report says a witness noticed she was "visibly upset and frantic."
“It's a sad situation,” Torzewski said. “You don't know what their circumstances are but would hope that no one would ever do that again."
Torzewski says they had previous concerns about Omer after a separate complaint. She says she has few answers to many questions: most importantly, she wants to know if he’s still employed as a taxi driver.
“I don't have a sure answer on that,” she said. “No."
She’s not sure what TARC and Yellow Cab are doing in response to the incident.
When reached by phone and asked for comment, a Yellow Cab employee relayed a message from a manager: “No comment.”
TARC was also limited in its response to WDRB News.
“Ismael Omar [sic] is not an employee of TARC. Please check with Yellow Cab for further comment,” wrote spokesman Jeremy Priddy. “TARC does contract with Yellow Cab for our TARC3 service. However, it is TARC policy to not comment on active investigations, and we must defer to LMPD.”
On Monday, Aug. 19, Down Syndrome of Louisville issued a statement including a number of policy changes that had already been implemented as a result of the 2018 incident. Some of those measures already in place included creating a crisis management team, requiring badges and lanyards for visitors and reviewing policies with TARC3.
Drivers have also been required to fill out a detailed sign-in log, including information such as their name, company, the name of the person they are picking up, their vehicle ID number and the date and time of their arrival.
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