Pando

Your monthly helping of serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on February 26, 2016

From The Sharing Economy Desk

It's time for this month's round up of all the crimes allegedly committed by, and against, ridesharing drivers.

Let’s not bury the lede: Earlier this month, an Uber driver was identified as the suspect in a series of shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan that left six people dead and two more injured.

The suspect, Jason Dalton, passed Uber’s background check and didn’t have a criminal record. Yet Uber has been criticized because it didn’t scrutinize Dalton after a rider complained that he was driving recklessly; because the company can’t enforce a ban on firearms in driver’s vehicles; and because a feature that lets people summon help through its app is only available in India.

Police have not yet found a motive for the shootings. Uber has told reporters that it doesn’t plan to change its background checks in response to the shooting -- largely because, given Dalton’s lack of a criminal record, no changes would suddenly identify him as a risk -- and that he had a 4.73 driver rating. Dalton ferried drivers around in between his seemingly random shootings.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at everything else that happened this month.

Uber drivers being bad, but not shooting-into-crowds bad

An Uber driver in Australia who stuck his hand up the skirt of a 20-year-old woman last June was found guilty of indecent assault on February 26. The driver, Zeljko Koncarevic, was fined $2,000 by a Perth magistrate for the crime.

An Uber driver in Boston named Abderrahim Dakiri was found guilty of assault and battery against a 21-year-old woman. Dakiri was initially charged with indecent assault and battery because he was accused of placing “his hands on [the woman] against her wishes and despite her protests,” but a municipal court judge found him guilty of the lesser charge. He will serve two years of probation, during which he’s barred from going near the victim or her college campus.

News broke on February 23 of a man believed to be an Uber driver attacking an airport worker in San Jose who took his picture and criticized his driving. The airport worker has returned to work, and told police that he followed a car bearing an Uber sticker to a rental area after he saw it speeding through the airport. The driver exited the car and attacked the man in the rental area.

A day earlier, a Chicago man was accused of bearing a firearm despite Uber’s policy against them. Uber is said to have removed the driver from its platform. Almost a month prior, another Uber driver, this time in Florida, pulled a gun on a man who said he might vomit in the driver’s vehicle. This driver was suspended from Uber’s platform. Anyone else noticing a trend here?

Meanwhile, in Australia, an Uber driver was accused of stalking a woman after wearing a police officer’s cap and entering her home to use the toilet. Those charges were dropped because the man simply intended to use the bathroom after sleeping in his car overnight, and said that the woman’s belief that he was a police officer was a misunderstanding. He was fined $1,000.

An Omaha woman had more concrete evidence of an Uber driver’s stalking. The driver followed her into her home, demanded a hug from her, and later left a “creepy” note on her door. He had previously been accused of writing about female passengers in posts to online forums. Uber has removed the man from its platform; so has Lyft, the other ride-hailing service for which he drove.

Another Uber driver, Robert Wing, was arrested after the Super Bowl for driving under the influence. The Los Angeles Times reported that Wing had picked up several passengers before he was pulled over and forced to take a breathalyzer test, which he failed, and that police said he was unaware of his location and totally reliant on his phone’s GPS feature to get around.

This next one could belong to either category. A woman said her Uber driver threw her service dog to the sidewalk, causing it to suffer a dislocated hip and a knee injury that required surgery. The driver (who was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals and harming a service animal) said that he was merely trying to help the dog out of the car, and that the woman had hit him several times, and cursed at him while also calling him “Muslim this, Muslim that.” Uber has suspended both driver and passenger from the service until the case has been resolved.

Finally, in Los Angeles, an Uber driver was charged with assaulting a woman with his vehicle after he drove off while she was trying to retrieve her forgotten phone from his car. He originally demanded payment for returning the phone; when the woman refused and he started to leave, she was knocked to the ground. The driver was previously convicted of forgery in 1991 and grand theft in both 1990 and 1998. All of the charges are felonies.

Bad stuff happened to drivers, too

Uber has requested increased security at LaGuardia Airport following protests against its service that led to one of its drivers being hit in the face with a traffic cone. The kicker: It was Uber’s own drivers, who were protesting the company’s rate cuts, who assaulted the man.

Earlier, an Uber driver was attacked by three passengers after he kicked them out of his vehicle for opening alcoholic beverages while he was giving them a ride. The driver was reportedly attacked with a beer bottle, and his back window was shattered, while three of the six passengers who were evicted from the vehicle went back to retrieve their belongings. Two of the riders were arrested for assault by mob; one was also charged with malicious wounding; and another was charged with destruction of property. All were held by police without bond.

On February 22, four men in Kenya attacked an Uber driver and set his car on fire, perhaps as part of growing protests by cabbies about the ease with which Uber drivers are able to operate. Police are said to have a description of the attackers’ vehicle and are investigating the incident.

Previously, a man turned himself in to Ottawa police for his role in attacking an Uber driver with two of his friends. The three passengers attacked the man in his vehicle, and after he escaped, they “chased him down, dragged him and beat him unconscious,” forcing a multi-day hospital stay. It’s not clear why the three -- two men and a women -- attacked the driver during the ride.

On February 13, reports surfaced of a 19-year-old Chicago woman who attacked an Uber driver who was preventing her mother from driving through an alley. The woman attacked the driver’s side mirror and, when he left the vehicle, his neck. She has been held in lieu of a $100,000 bail.

Just two days earlier, two men pistol-whipped an Uber driver and stole his money, wallet, and phone. That was after they stole a man’s car at gunpoint and later robbed a tourist earlier that day. The two men, Nathaniel Woods and John Powell, were arrested at around 9pm that night.

The assaults don’t end there. Earlier in the month a 31-year-old Oregonian man attacked an Uber driver and stole his car before crashing into a nearby curb. The man, Collin Lyle, was found in a nearby home and charged with intimidation, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, driving under the influence, and reckless endangerment. The driver himself was not injured.

Before that, a woman named Anjali Ramkissoon attacked an Uber driver in Miami. The assault was captured in a YouTube video that has been seen by millions of people, and has led to her indefinite suspension from the Jackson Memorial hospital, where she is a resident neurologist.

Finally, something that doesn’t involve an assault on drivers: The personal information of one of Uber’s drivers, including the woman’s name and Social Security number, was made available to other drivers who tried to retrieve their tax forms from the company. It’s not clear how many other drivers saw the woman’s information; Uber referred to the issue as a “bug” in its system.