Atlanta Uber driver allegedly pulls a gun on a valet attendant

By Michael Carney , written on September 8, 2014

From The News Desk

Someone give the Uber driver relations staff an antacid, because it's been one hell of a trying summer for the department.

The latest incident from the "you've got to be kidding me files," comes from Atlanta, where last night an Uber driver allegedly pulled a gun on a valet parking attendant outside a JT Kitchen restaurant and threatened to kill him.

“That employee asked the Uber driver to move forward to park in a designated space, at which time an altercation ensued. Subsequently, that Uber driver pulled out a gun and pointed it at the employee and told him he was going to kill him,” Atlanta PD's Ralph Woolfolk tells Atlanta's WSB-TV 2.

Like any company, there's only so much that Uber can do to control the actions of its employees (or, in its case, independent contractors). But this marks a troubling trend for the company that has had a history of weak background checks which cleared at least two convicted felons to drive on its platform. Promises from Uber to improve these checks followed, but it remains unclear if this has actually improved rider safety. Uber has had incidents with driver violence before, including a DC area driver taking three passengers, police, and a taxi inspector on a high speed chase in July.

It's easy to point the finger at Uber in particular, but the company is no more or less vulnerable to rogue employee behavior than traditional taxi providers. Assuming the driver in question legitimately passed a background check, it's hard to see how the company could have prevented this incident short of putting metal detectors and dash cameras in its drivers' (privately owned) vehicles.

Uber issued a statement on the Atlanta issue that reads, "Safety is Uber's #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency. As a matter of policy, unless expressly permitted by law, driver partners are not allowed to carry weapons on a trip."

Riders in Georgia may be troubled to learn that drivers are, indeed, explicitly permitted to carry weapons in their vehicles within the state. There's been no word, however, as to whether the gun in this case was registered and legally permitted. As I've previously reported in LA, driving for Uber (like driving a taxi) can be a dangerous occupation that may at times warrant carrying a weapon.

Fortunately, in this incident, no one was hurt. The obviously deranged driver left the scene before police and has yet to be arrested – surely assault charges are in order.

Woolfolk did issue a rather alarming warning, however, that speaks to his lack of faith in the city's for-hire transportation providers. “Anybody you get in a vehicle with – be cognizant that you do not know that person," he tells WSB-TV. "Make sure to keep 911 ready to dial should something go wrong,”

[Image adapted from Maniac]