NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans police are searching for the gunman who shot and killed a United Cabs driver Monday.
They found 44-year-old Ali Husnain's body in his cab with a gunshot wound to the head.
The vehicle crashed into a fence behind an apartment complex on Downman Road around 3:30 a.m. Monday.
Investigators believe Husnain was killed by a passenger and robbery was the motive.
They found Husnain's empty wallet in the cab.
"It appears that's the motive based on prior murders we've had with cab drivers," said NOPD Homicide Division Commander Lt. Gary Marchese. "It doesn't appear he was involved in any type of gang or narcotics activity. At this time, we believe that it was the passenger in the cab that committed this murder."
Husnain's friends and co-workers say he was likely just dropping off a fare in New Orleans east when his life suddenly ended in tragedy.
"The life is that cheap these days," said Tabarak Ali. "I can't believe that. I can't believe that, just for a few bucks, someone can just shoot somebody and kill somebody."
"When you are on the road, 3 o'clock in the morning, driving around a stranger there are no guarantees," said Syed Askari.
Fellow cabbies flocked to the 6000 block of Downman Road as the sun came up, exposing the crime scene.
It's the fifth cab driver murder in the New Orleans area in just the past two years.
"I don't know. I'm just still in shock that something brutal like this happened to somebody," said United Cab President Joseph Messina. "He's married, got a little girl, he was just trying to do everything right and something like this happens. It's hard to believe."
Messina said it appears these days robbers view cabs as rolling ATMs.
"When these guys are out robbing somebody, they go up to the guy that's got cash. They don't go after somebody that doesn't have any money. Whoever's got the cash, that's who they rob."
According to United Cab, the last time the company heard from Ali Husnain was around 1:30 a.m. Monday when he got on the radio to say he was picking up a fare in front of a hotel in the 100 block of St. Charles Avenue.
"We just assume he picked someone up there," said Messina. "That was the last time we got any transmission from him on the radio."
A new law making cabbie killings a death penalty offense in Louisiana takes effect in three weeks.
The bill's author, state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said he now wishes the law took effect when the governor signed it last month.
"I had know idea that we would be looking to implement this law so quickly," said Martiny.
Martiny admits he doesn't know if the new law will curb violence against against cab drivers, but he says he hopes it will.
"These people because of the nature of their job are put in potentially very precarious situations," said Martiny. "I think it sends a message that we're serious about the way we protect those people who are vital to the way our community operates."
New Orleans cabbies now worry about their own safety.
"I actually got robbed, like, three months ago by a lady about 20 years old and she robbed three cab drivers in one night," said Askari. "I was the first one. She put me in the trunk and I mean she drove me around in my cab. It just breaks your heart. It could be me. It could be any of us, you know."
"We are all just making a living and trying to just feed our families," said Ali. "It's very sad. I mean I don't have the words to say it. I'm just really hurt inside, you know."
So far police don't have a suspect, but investigators are following up on leads in the case.
"We believe we know where the cab driver picked his fare up and we're currently researching video from the businesses," Marchese said. "We're also in the process of securing surveillance video from the area where the murder occurred."
Anyone with information about Ali Husnain's killer is urged to call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.