When Alpine Taxi driver Stephen Baldridge returned to the parking lot of the Tap House after picking up a customer late Wednesday night, his taxi was missing.
A short time later, one of two passengers who had been sitting in the taxi, Benjamin C. Hallgren, 25, of Steamboat Springs, was arrested on suspicion of motor vehicle theft and driving under the influence of alcohol after allegedly taking the taxi on a brief joy ride.
Hallgren and another man whom Baldridge had picked up at Mambo Italiano were in the back of Baldridge's taxi when he went into the Tap House. Baldridge said they appeared intoxicated, and he had suspected they might try to joke around. So, he turned off his two-way radio before going in to find the customer he was supposed to pick up.
"They were ... being jerks," Baldridge said.
Once inside the Tap House, Baldridge saw his taxi pull away with Hallgren allegedly driving.
"You have to be really stupid to get behind the wheel of a taxi," Baldridge said.
After calling the police, Baldridge returned to the parking lot. Soon, Hallgren did, too.
"He has a look on his face like he's having the greatest time in the world," Baldridge said.
Steamboat Springs Public Safety Director J.D. Hays said Hallgren was arrested on suspicion of motor vehicle theft.
After arriving at the Routt County Jail, Hallgren was given a breath test that indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.22. Under Colorado law, anything above 0.1 is considered driving under the influence of alcohol.
Hallgren's friend was not arrested.
Baldridge said many people don't realize how difficult it is to be a taxi driver. He said incidents like this happen all the time.
"You have to have so much patience," he said.
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