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Kidnapped Taxi Driver Describes Terrifying Ordeal

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Swamy Tirunagari

Swamy Tirunagari (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago cab driver is kidnapped and forced in his trunk — then driven recklessly around the city. The ordeal ended in a crash. But that cab driver is safe and talking about it. CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

Swamy Tirunagari was held captive for about 40 minutes. He says he has the Chicago Police, the dispatcher at Yellow Cab and technology to thank for his rescue.

Tirunagari describes the terrifying moments he endured, allegedly at the hands of 27-year-old Roderick Swoopes.

“He stopped a couple times and asked me to stay quiet and close the door, otherwise he’s going to shoot,” he said.

Police say Swoopes kidnapped Tirunagari, putting him in the trunk of his own cab. Swoopes then sped away with him, crashing the cab and totaling it before police closed in.

“I don’t know what he was looking for, maybe some spot, secluded,” said Tirunagari. “I’m not too sure what was going through his mind.”

A black knit cap with two holes in it, looking like a mask, was found between the front seats of the cab after the crash.

Police say Swoopes asked Tirunagari to drive him from a Dunkin’ Donuts at Racine and Clybourn to the South Side.

“He asked me to take him to 65th and Ashland,” said Tirunagari.

Tirunagari says once they got there, Swoopes changed his mind.

“He said, ‘I have to go to my girl’s crib,’” Tirunagari said.

Once at Parkway Apartments, at 65th and King Drive, Swoopes asked how much the fare was, then: “He pulled out a gun. It was a semi-automatic and he asked me to get out of the cab. He asked for my wallet and phone. Then he asked me to get into the trunk,” said Tirunagari.

The cab driver says he was beaten in the head before he got into the trunk.

What Swoopes didn’t know was Tirunagari had a second cell phone with him. He called 911 from the trunk. The operator told him to find the safety latch.

“I opened the trunk and explained to him I was passing Paulina and 75th Street, and stuff like that,” said Tirunagari.

The 911 operator called the Yellow Cab dispatcher. They then used the GPS on the cab to zero in on Tirunagari’s location.

“I could see about 25, 30 squad cars,” said Tirunagari. “The guy started running and police started chasing him. And they got him.”

Before Swoopes allegedly pulled a gun on Tirunagari, he had told him, if he didn’t have the $30 to pay the fare, it was OK, that he could give him whatever money he had. He even took his phone number, so he could pay him later if he wanted.

Swoopes was ordered held on $750,000 bail Tuesday on charges of armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated vehicular hijacking and misdemeanor battery and aggravated assault to a police officer.

Swoopes has prior arrests for trespassing and cannabis possession, prosecutors said.

The officers that chased Swoopes, bringing him into custody, were part of Operation Safe City. Those are officers working overtime in high-crime locations.

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