Killing of cab driver in Gretna shakes the industry - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Killing of cab driver in Gretna shakes the industry

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The Tuesday night murder of a cab driver in Gretna is another hit to the local taxi industry. Several drivers have been gunned down on the job over the past few years, and this latest killing raised more concern.

"When somebody gets killed, yeah, you get scared of your job," said cab driver Amanuel Hadis. "You just feel unsecure."

"I think a cab driver is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, because you haul everybody," said driver Joseph Parks.

Since 2011, there have been at least five deadly attacks on cab drivers across the metro area. According to our partners at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, 23 cab drivers have been murdered on the job in the city since 1994.

"It's a tragedy," said N'Awlins Cab Company President Sheree Kerner. "It's gut-wrenching and it's a sad day for the taxi industry."

Last night's killing hit close to home for Kerner, whose brother, Billy, was gunned down inside his cab in Terrytown in 2011. Kerner successfully pushed for a new state law making the murder of a cab driver a death penalty offense. Now, she's pushing for improved panic buttons inside cabs that would alert 911 operators and other cabbies of the distressed driver's location.

"It terrifies everybody," Kerner said. "I'm terrified. You know, when you're in the industry and you're so personally connected, you know, when someone gets killed, it feels like a part of your family. You get these gut-wrenching pains, and just a feeling of hopelessness."

Police say three teens executed 55-year-old driver Blake Helmer on Tuesday, shooting him moments after they got into the backseat of his cab.

Loved ones say Helmer was a friendly man who often offered free rides to those in need.

"I went with him a couple of nights, and he helped homeless people - he did that a lot," said Helmer's brother, Eric. "It bothered him to see homeless people."

Eric Helmer says he often begged his brother to quit driving cabs because of the dangers, but he wouldn't budge.

"He really wasn't worried," said Eric. "I don't know why, but I was more worried than he was."

Some cab drivers have called for bulletproof partitions between the front and back seats, which are commonly found in cabs in cities like New York and Chicago.

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